The presidential election cycle of 2016 will go down as one of the most remarkable in history, and the election of Donald Trump may be the most consequential political event of our time. The nation continues to be divided along political lines, but a renowned addiction specialist sees a bright future from the trenches of the battle that he fights every day. “Setting politics aside; as a physician and devoted caregiver, I’m quite optimistic that Donald Trump will enact legislation to help us win the devastating war on drugs.” These are the words of Dr. Russell Surasky of the Surasky Neurological Center for Addiction. 

He continues, “In the time it takes you to eat your next meal, the opiate epidemic will take a life. Each day, 78 American families feel the devastation of losing a loved one to addiction. Fred Trump, Donald Trumps' brother, died at the age of 41 from severe alcoholism. Trump has often shared this story explaining that this is the reason why he never drank alcohol or used drugs. 

This year alone, 50,000 people will lose their life to a drug overdose; more than car accidents and guns combined. Surasky highlights a shocking reality, “Since 2003, there’s been an explosion in the demographic and geographic infestation of opiate dependency in America; it’s no longer an inner city problem.” He says, “It stains all of our communities.” His reasoning seems sound, and refreshingly apolitical. He believes in defeating the problem through multiple channels.

Three Major Targets to Defeat the Drug Epidemic

“There are three primary concerns as it relates to conquering this plague on our society. Strengthening our southern border to eliminate drug trafficking, reducing my profession’s egregious disregard for the addiction potential of opiate prescriptions, and expanding access to highly specialized addiction focused healthcare for those who are battling this problem.” A review of Mr. Trump’s initial proposals indicates that he will be a strong leader on all three aspects.

Facts are Facts

"Regardless of political philosophy, the facts are undeniable; the expansion of the heroine epidemic has directly coincided with the shift in the source of heroine. It now flows rampantly through our porous border with Mexico.” Government studies show that virtually all of the nation’s heroine is carried in by drug traffickers coming through the Mexican border. In nearly all cases these drug traffickers are crossing the border illegally. Dr. Surasky states "Building an effective barrier and securing our border from drug traffickers will suddenly and dramatically help turn the tide. If we don’t secure the border, there are not enough doctors, medicines or treatment centers to stop this insidious epidemic.” As it stands now, we fight the war on drugs one patient at a time and we simply can’t catch up.

“Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that’s been appearing more and more frequently in the bloodstream of heroine addicts. It is 50 to 5000 times more powerful than heroine and is an ingredient found in as much as half of the heroine on the street today. China has been mass-producing the substance and inserting it into the North American drug smuggling operation.” Mr. Trump has spoken specifically about the shipping loopholes that permit this to occur, and he has vowed to reform those shipping regulations.

Dr. Surasky also notes that the hot topic of sanctuary cities is another component of border security. “A great deal of the border traffic finds its way to the cities that are sensitive to the plight of immigrants, and so this is where the heroine industry finds its shelter.” The President-Elect has vowed to take specific and immediate action to remedy this issue.

Prevention is Preferable to a Cure

“Far too many well-meaning doctors are prescribing opiates to their patients.” Surasky continues, “The result is addiction by those who live good lives and would never have considered using addictive drugs”

The problem began when Purdue Pharmaceuticals deliberately misled physicians and the public with the assertion that their new drug, Oxycontin® , wouldn't cause addiction. At the time opiates were only being prescribed for patients with cancer pain or for those in hospice care. Purdue realized the enormous profits that could be made if they could convince doctors to write opiate prescriptions for more common conditions, such as arthritis and back pain. But They also knew they would have to convince doctors that Oxycontin® wasn’t addictive. Without any facts or studies, they launched a national media campaign to promote their claim. They specifically told physicians that Oxycontin® wouldn't cause addiction in patients unless they had a history of addiction. 

This was a dangerous and ultimately deadly lie! It did however work as planned. Big Pharma was successful and physicians began prescribing staggering numbers of opiates for routine aches and pains. As the opiate epidemic began surging in our country and overdoses were becoming rampant, Purdue Pharmaceuticals was charged with multiple felonies for misleading doctors and the public about the addiction potential of the drug. Eventually they settled the case for 650 million dollars. Unfortunately this wasn't a sufficient deterrent, as Purdue Pharma has raked in 3.2 billion dollars so far. “The prescription problem has reached epic proportions; in some states, there are more prescriptions for opiates written than there are people living in the state!” The scientist displays a reassuring clinical demeanor while explaining a serious problem in society.

Donald Trump proposes a multi-pronged approach to this problem, including regulations that would limit the amount of opiates produced and prescribed in the United States. Dr. Surasky urges his fellow caregivers to find better methods. “Physicians must be better trained in alternative methods of treatment for pain. Additionally, American doctors must have mandatory training in helping to wean patients off of opiates. The vast majority of physicians who prescribe opiates are ill-equipped to help patients stop taking them in a way that is medically sound. 

Competition Breeds Excellence

Dr. Surasky addresses the Republican’s approach to the Affordable Care Act. “Among the principles that Mr. Trump has proclaimed, is the importance of improving healthcare in the country by removing state borders that artificially increase prices and diminish coverage for everyone.” These geographic lines are harmful in the digital era. They block individuals and small businesses from being able to purchase insurance from carriers at competitive rates. The only reason such lines exist is because of special interests in Washington; highly paid lobbyists influencing congressmen and senators. Donald Trump has vowed to eliminate these state lines, which will result in increased competition among insurance providers. That in turn, will lead to better coverage at a significantly reduced price. About 90% of the afflicted are not receiving any treatment at all and about 30 million patients live in counties without any medication-assisted treatments. 

“President Elect Trump has promised to be the new warlord in the fight against illicit drugs, and we all hope his insistent character will pave the way for victory.” 

 Oxycontin® ® is a registered trademark of Purdue Pharma. The generic name of the drug is Oxycodone and is also labeled as Roxicodone, and Oxecta.

Russell Surasky, FAAN, ABAM, with Surasky Neurological Center for Addiction, is board certified in both neurology and addiction medicine, is one of the few physicians with this combination of credentials. His primary focus in practice is addiction medicine. Utilizing unique medication protocols individualized to each patient, he provides specialized treatment for opiate, benzodiazepine, and alcohol addiction.