President Biden introduced his plan Thursday to combat the national opioid epidemic. The plan includes syringe exchanges, increased efforts against drug cartels and expanding the use of overdose-reversing drugs. The Biden Administration hopes its National Drug Control Strategy will reduce drug overdose deaths by 13% and double treatment for at risk communities by 2025.
The Biden Administration’s plan includes providing syringes and other injection equipment to drug users to ensure they are sterile and won’t spread disease. But providing drug paraphernalia has been controversial in the past.
“This is insanity. This isn’t even about liberal or conservative anymore. This is about crazy versus normal,” Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) said when providing so-called “smoking kits” to drug users was first floated in February. Those smoking kits also included syringe distribution in addition to other items needed for smoking crack cocaine.
The strategy also includes expanding access to naloxone, a life saving drug that can reverse opioid overdoses, and test strips that allow users to check the purity of their drug to make sure it is not laced with fentanyl.
“As a researcher, I have observed the pervasive biases that have enabled ineffective drug policy approaches to be repeated over and over with the same results,” Dr. Rahul Gupta, the Director of National Drug Control Policy, wrote in his preface to the plan.
An estimated 105,752 people died of drug overdoses from Oct. 2020 to 2021. That amounts to a 71% increase from 2016. The deadliest drugs, synthetic opioids including fentanyl, account for 66% of the deaths.
The White House also wants to reduce the supply of drugs coming into the United States by targeting the production, trafficking, and distribution methods of both domestic and transnational criminal organizations.
“Every time one of our law enforcement professionals seizes illicit fentanyl, cocaine, or methamphetamine, they are helping to save lives and are cutting into the profits of the criminal organizations,” Dr. Gupta wrote.
The plan called for increasing information sharing amongst law enforcement and increasing cooperation with other countries to crackdown on transnational criminal organizations, which import a majority of the illicit drugs consumed in America.
The Federal Drug Control budget is $40 billion. The President’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget request includes $300 million each for Customs and Border Protection and the DEA.