President Trump, 1,000 people a week die of drug overdoses in America: Our view

If 1,000 people in America were dying in plane crashes or terrorist attacks each week, the country would be horrified, demanding an end to the carnage.

Well, 1,000 people are dying each week of drug overdoses, driven largely by addiction to opioids.

Yet outside of pleas from victims’ loved ones and addiction experts, there is no sustained, massive outcry across the nation to stamp out this scourge.

Perhaps the raging epidemic has failed to galvanize the public because the deaths don’t occur as mass tragedies. They are spread across the country, a relentless stream in cities, suburbs, small towns and rural communities.

Overdose deaths — more than 52,400 in 2015 — have far outstripped the toll from guns or vehicle crashes, once the leading causes of accidental deaths. This tragedy is a health crisis that requires an all-out response by all levels of government, law enforcement, the medical establishment and the treatment community.


On Monday, a commission created by President Trump called for the president to declare a “national emergency,” which would empower federal agencies to take bold steps and cut through regulatory hurdles, pressure Congress to provide more money for the fight, and awaken more Americans to the extent of the the crisis. Several public health experts made a similar recommendation to the Obama administration last year, but nothing came of it.

The commission also called for more concrete actions, including changing federal law to force licensed physician prescribers to get training on how to prescribe opioids safely. Amazingly, few get such training now.

Most of the panel’s recommendations are solid and deserve to be adopted. But one excellent idea — eliminating a major barrier to using federal Medicaid funds for drug treatment at large psychiatric hospitals — runs head-on into Republican efforts to curb Medicaid spending.

Whether the president moves on this proposal will say a lot about how serious he is about solving this crisis.

Any comprehensive approach must include ways to treat those who are already addicted, and steps to prevent addiction in the first place.

Addicts are showing up in morgues, at a rate so high in some communities that coroners are running out of space. But many victims who die have shown up previously in emergency rooms before it was too late. Most are told…