New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was allegedly tapped by the White House to head a new anti drug commission whose mission is to address the deadly heroin epidemic. This part-time role would allow Christie to continue his work in New Jersey while contributing to the new initiative.
The as yet unnamed anti drug panel is part of the new White House Office of American Innovation, which is headed by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Christie, a one time running mate of President Trump, has been a vocal advocate for drug policy reform. According to NJ.com, Kushner and Christie have been in talks for several weeks about the goals of the new initiative.
Facing The Opioid Crisis Head On
As Governor, Christie has made drug abuse and restricting access to prescription painkillers a priority. Now in his final year in office, he announced in January that he would focus his efforts on limiting prescriptions of addictive painkillers and seek legislation to require insurers to pay for at least six months of drug treatment. At his State of the State address, Christie said, “I will not have the blood of addicted New Jerseyans on my hands because we waited to act. I will not willingly watch another 1,600 of our citizens die and watch their families mourn and suffer.”
Christie has had front row seats to the deadly consequences of the heroin epidemic. In New Jersey alone, 1500 people died in 2015 from drug overdoses. This is a 20% increase from the year before. According to data from the state medical examiner’s office, most of the deaths were attributed to opioids, including heroin and fentanyl. To combat this, Christie has called for an emergency measure that would limit the number of pills a doctor could initially prescribe to a patient—the reasoning being that, fewer pills means a lower likelihood of the patient becoming addicted to the opiates. The law is similar to legislature that exists in other states, that is intended to prevent overprescribing.
Changes In Attitudes Towards Drugs
Christie’s push to limit the usual 30-day supply of opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin or oxycodone, to only a 5-day supply, represents an important change in the government’s attitude towards drugs. Previously, prescription painkillers were treated as a medication that was not likely to be abused. Pharmaceutical companies encouraged doctors to write prescriptions for more pills, and used targeted marketing campaigns to make the drugs seem “safer.” Nobody wanted to talk about whether the pills could lead to serious addiction, or why so many pills were being given to patients. Now, as the link between prescription painkillers and heroin is becoming clearer—especially as fatal overdoses on prescription pills have increased—legislation is needed to address potential abuse.
The connection between Vicodin and black tar isn’t news to the recovery community, but the government’s search for a solution to drug abuse is heartening. Although pill limiting will probably not be the single answer to the heroin problem, it is one change that may prevent overdoses and keep patients from becoming addicted to their medication.
Waiting for Announcement From The White House
A formal announcement of Christie’s appointment to the new anti-drug initiative panel is expected by the end of March. Although his prospective role is as yet undefined, it is expected that he will continue the same work he’s initiated in New Jersey. However, it’s unclear whether Christie will work well with the Trump family. Although once considered a good fit for the position of Vice President, Christie was dumped in favor of Mike Pence. He was also passed over for the post of U.S. Attorney General, which has gone to Jeff Sessions. Also, before he was Governor of New Jersey, Christie was a U.S. attorney who prosecuted Jared Kushner’s father, New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner. Charles Kushner was convicted on charges of tax evasion, witness tampering, and accepting illegal campaign donations and spent two years in prison.
The creation of the new anti drug initiative is encouraging, and points to signs that President Trump does in fact intend to make good on his campaign promises. It’s time to address the heroin epidemic at the federal level, and this is the first step to doing that.