President Trump on Thursday said his administration would declare the opioid crisis a national emergency, just two days after his top health official said, after meeting with the president, that such a step was not necessary.

Trump’s remarks came after his commission on combatting drug abuse issued an “urgent” recommendation last week that he issue an emergency declaration.

It’s still unclear what the emergency declaration will look like. The laws that govern such declarations stipulate that the president himself spell out what resources will become available and what new authorities the administration will take on.


“We’re going to draw it up and we’re going to make it a national emergency,” Trump told reporters in New Jersey. “It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had.”

“But this is a national emergency and we are drawing documents now to so attest,” he added.

The declaration could help the government negotiate lower prices for naloxone, the overdose reversal medication, but many experts and advocates have said that it would likely be more of a symbolic step and public education tool. Under laws that outline national emergencies, the government can open up additional funding to states and provide technical assistance and manpower to places where local and state resources have been overwhelmed. But major initiatives to expand treatment options, promote more research, and boost funding would still require congressional action or initiatives from federal agencies.

“I think the question really becomes, not that you just say it, but what are the actions behind it? What are the series of actions that you’re going to take as a result of that declaration?” Michael Botticelli, who ran the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Obama, told STAT earlier this week. “There is some merit to it, but only if that brings along with it real meaningful action.”

On Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said the administration felt like it had enough resources and focus without needing to declare an emergency, although he added that the option was still on the table.

National emergencies tend to be declared after natural disasters or to stop the spread of infectious diseases. Experts have questioned how officials will be able to measure the effectiveness of an emergency for the opioid crisis and how they will know when to declare it over, given that the opioid epidemic is expected to remain a public health crisis for years to come.

Six states have announced their own opioid-related public health emergency or disaster declarations in recent years, and a seventh, Indiana, issued a declaration to respond to an HIV outbreak that was driven by injection drug abuse.

Some advocates have said that even if the emergency declaration alone does not ease the crisis, it could rally Congress and federal officials to bolster their response even with authorities they already have. But not everyone sees a declaration under the Trump administration as a certain positive step.

“Would this administration use a declaration of a national emergency to further an agenda that places at its center health-based solutions, or would it then turn around and say, we have an emergency, we need draconian legislation like sentencing laws, or crackdowns on people who use or misuse opioids?” asked Grant Smith, deputy director at the Drug Policy Alliance. “The latter would be more in line with how the administration has handled its drug policy to date, more than the former.”

Leave a Comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • I’d recommend anyone with chronic pain or an addiction look into Kratom. It’s a plant native to Asia that many use for pain or to kick an opiate addiction.

    It’s legal in most US states and near impossible to overdose on when taken alone since it’s generally in crushed leaf form.

    It’s often more economical to order it online. More info about the plant and where to order it can be found here:

    Personally, I use it for depression and anxiety. It’s helped me greatly.

  • As a chronic pain patient, due to being rear ended by a drunk driver 1030 in the a.m. on a Wednesday morning I have had to endure five separate fusion surgeries. I am all for cracking down on opiate abuse and narcotic abuse. Especially those that obtain them illegally, sell them illegally, misuse their medication, and do not follow the rules of their written narcotics contract. I personally myself have had a narcotics contract through my pain management provider for the last 10 years. I have personally never failed any form of urine exam, pill count, med check, or any of the other rules associated with my narcotics contract. I just pray that President Trump does not forget that there are those of us that require these medications not only to have some semblance of a quality of life, but also to continue our dreams and our occupations or careers, much less to be able to just provide basic needs for ourselves and our families. Please do not make us “the forgotten ones” and the ones that need to suffer for other people’s mistakes. Whether it’s cancer, a genetic disorder, or a simple car accident please do not make us a victim again.

  • How about the government negotiate the lowering of all drug costs? Didn’t The Deal Maker claim this was something he was going to do if elected?

  • Trump said something, so what? Looking at the trend, it could actually mean he will not do anything or do the exact opposite.

    Publish this article again when what he said is actually in the form of a legally binding document

  • Medicaid should cover the disabled and children who don’t have coverage. The 10 to 20 M low-income added people that it covers should be allowed to buy insurance, they want, across state lines. Subsidized on a means tested basis. This same insurance would be available to all people

  • This is like the Nixon administration with marijuana. They are creating a public panic over something that doesn’t exist in order to distract from other political issues.

  • Trump and McConnell need to get on the same page. Neither one is communicating effectively nor are they in touch with reality. the tweets continue to attack.
    The Real issue is our Healthcare System. McConnell and the GOP have had a hard on only because they did not respect and were against former President Obama, thus the ACA is the real name not Obamacare, which is the slang term used by the haters including current POTUS whom can’t distinguish the truth from alternative facts because he is the Author of such. He is uneducated with an unhealthy mind with serious mental health instabilities. He is is own worst enemy on every level. He is so desperately insecure he attacks everybody in his path it’s never his fault. The decisions he makes are not rational, thus based on his sources as he often quotes, I heard from so and so. It’s never I researched or I have learned from really listened to the American People for any factual basis. All of his rhetoric and propaganda has No Factual Basis, just shear hate and a revenge to destroy the legacy of former POTUS.
    Our Country needs Transparency for Congress to have a conscience to do the job they were elected to do, Represent the People Not Special Interest. The corruption and Greed is the American Way which has been and continues to control our Government. This whole repeal is all about taking away Healthcare for Millions of people only to give the already wealthiest a Tax break, We cannot afford this, nor can we afford a wall when there are so many more important issues which have been neglected, our Healthcare System, CDC, FDA, AMA, etc., Insurance & Pharmaceutical Companies are the problem. We need to get back to the basics, All natural modalities and getting to the root causes instead of putting a bandaid, masking the problems. It’s a monopoly, Doctors are practicing, here try this let’s see how you respond. The vaccine schedule is out of control, Why because its $ making, profitable. Doctors are getting kickbacks from Pharmaceutical Co. for every prescription, every vaccine, every referral for money making tests, etc. Google it, put a name in and up will come how much $ they profit. It’s such an Injustice to Society.
    Our Country’s basic necessities have been neglected for far to long. Our Systems are broken from the WH right down to the local Municipalities. The Priorities are not being met. Infrastructure is Antiquated, We need Roads, Highways, Transit, Bridges, Tunnels, Water and Sewage, Buildings, Schools, etc., etc.
    The real epidemic is the fact that people are dying because they are Abusing “Street Drugs” which are being concocted with household chemicals and Opiods. This is the real danger, not the individuals whom are genuinely suffering excruciating, debilitating chronic pain from Injuries, Infectious Diseases, Cancers, unsuccessful Surgeries,etc.
    The Real Pandemic progressively escalating in this Country and Worldwide is Lyme Disease & All the Tickborn vector Diseases which has been under reported by the CDC over the past few decades. Lyme Disease is now in every State of the USA and in every Country Worldwide. It is the new STD, Aids/Post Sepsis Infectious Disease. Additionally, Ticks have infected the whole food chain any insect, be it gnats, ants, bedbugs, dustmites, flies, spiders, fleas, lice, rodents, birds, frogs, bees, squirrels, and livestock, chickens, hens, pigs, cows, sheep, lamb, horses, goats, deer, and our household pets,all can be carriers spreading the tickborn diseases, Nobody is safe.
    The CDC knows this, yet they continue to have Unreliable Antiquated Guidelines, Denial of Chronic Lyme & Tickborn Diseases, Unreliable Standard Tests in which they know and have been protecting the Perpetrators who altered the Science of the tests based on a Fraudulent study. For all the Facts see;
    This is the Injustice which wreaks havoc on our Society. People are dying from consequences of Tickborn infections being the root cause of the underlying labels the CDC has created in an effort to divert and manipulate us from the truth. MS, CFS, ME, Sarcoid, Adem, NMO, TM, EBV, Parkinsons, Dementia, Alzheimers, Mayis Gravis, Autism, ADD, ADHD, Asthma, Mold Toxcity, Herpes Virus, Shingles, hundreds of Labels have been created as a diversion. Autopsy results have been conclusive that Tick born infections/ Lyme Disease has been found in the brains of the deceased.
    Additionally, Tickborn infection is risen 500% this season due to the climate.
    Educate, educate, educate oneself in order to exist in this day in age.
    May America get back to the foundations our forefathers begun.

  • This now out of control, completely misguided war on opioids is harming and will harm more valid pain patients. The government cannot track nor obviously control the influx of illicit drugs into the country so they are going after the most vulnerable and best tracked people, chronic pain patients! Disgusting!!

  • Waiting for those addicts to show up saying “there’s no opioid crisis!?!!”
    /revived with Narcan

    • A future episode of “America’s Got Talent” will show the story of the junkie who was saved two dozen times before he lost the game of Narcan Roulette.

Sign up for our Daily Recap newsletter

A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day in science and medicine

Privacy Policy