Appoint Pro As Drug Czar

October 19, 2017

Now that Rep. Tom Marino has demonstrated the pitfalls of naming a conflicted politician as director of National Drug Control Policy, President Donald Trump should take a different approach to naming the next “drug czar.” Marino, Trump’s nominee and a Republican from Lycoming County, withdrew his name from consideration Tuesday. CBS News’ “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post revealed that he had championed a law that impedes the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to keep prescription opioids off the black market, while collecting nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions from interests tied to opioid manufacturing and distribution, sapping his credibility and making his nomination untenable. The opioid epidemic is the most pressing matter on the next drug czar’s agenda. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50,000 of 64,000 people who died from drug overdoses last year used opioids. More than 14,400 of those victims died from overdoses of prescription opioids. That defines how the opioid epidemic is substantially different from previous addiction crisis. Not only do thousands die directly from overdosing on legal prescription opioids, thousands more who died using heroin, fentanyl and related substances originally became addicted using prescription opioids. Previous waves of addiction and death were due to purely illegal drugs marketed exclusively underground — powder and crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, for example. The result is that the opioid epidemic cuts across broad swaths of society rather than identifiable sub-groups. It is not just a drug epidemic, but an a massive public health crisis. Trump plans to declare the problem a national emergency next week. In light of that, Trump should resist the urge to appoint a political supporter like Marino. And he should avoid treating the office as solely a law enforcement position. Instead, he should nominate as drug czar a public health professional with experience battling widespread addiction.