- - Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Do you think that President Trump, after declaring last month that the opioid drug addiction epidemic is a national health emergency, talked to perhaps the most famous opioid addict in the world about the problem when the two played golf last weekend?

Did the president, who told the country in October that “no part of our society — not young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural, has been spared this plague of drug addiction and this horrible, horrible situation that’s taken place with opioids,” bring up this plague of drug addiction and horrible situation with the man who was found passed out in his car at 2 a.m. six months ago with Vicodin and Dilaudid in his system, as well as Xanax and Ambien?

Did President Trump ask Tiger Woods about his drug problem?

We weren’t privy to those conversations on the golf course when Trump, on Twitter, declared he would be playing golf with Woods and Dustin Johnson last Friday. So we don’t know if those questions were asked. Perhaps the links aren’t the proper place for a conversation about a national epidemic while you are playing golf with someone who had to enter rehab — such as it was — for addiction to the painkillers that the president said was a national emergency.

A press conference, though, that would be a different story.

A press conference, you would hope, would be the place where reporters would ask Woods about that May 29 in Jupiter, Florida, when police found his damaged Mercedes Benz by the side of the road at two in the morning, car running with Woods asleep at the wheel, his speech slurred and unsure of his whereabouts. A police department video showed Woods could barely walk or stand up, and was taken from the scene in handcuffs.

Maybe, in between all the excitement about Woods’ return to the golf course Thursday in the Hero World Challenge, someone will mention the words Tiger Woods and addiction.

It won’t be Woods, that’s for sure.

He told reporters Tuesday that he was just trying to manage the pain from numerous back surgeries and lack of sleep when he was arrested.

“I was trying to go away from the pain and I was trying to sleep, which I hadn’t done in a very long time because of the things I’ve been dealing with,” Woods said. “I’ve come out the other side and I feel fantastic. I didn’t realize how bad my back was. Now that I’m feeling the way I’m feeling, it’s just hard to imagine that I was living the way I was living, with my foot not working, my leg not working, and then the hours of not being able to sleep at all because of the pain.”

If that is the case — that he as “come out on the other side” — good for Woods. But he has a history of drug problems — and when I say problems, I mean when taking drugs negatively impact your life, your family and your business.

It’s a history that includes the infamous 2009 driveway fight with his wife Elin Nordegren, when Woods reportedly took both Vicodin and the sleep-aid Ambien that night and his interview with federal investigators a few months later about being a patient of the famous PED drug pusher, Dr. Anthony Galea.

Galea is the Canadian doctor convicted of transporting unapproved and misbranded drugs across the border in 2011. He’s now in danger of losing his license in Canada.

No one will likely remember much of that this weekend. No mention of last May and a damaged Mercedes idling alongside the road.

A Golf Channel blog on Sunday reported how great Tiger felt, and how his fourth back surgery in April has made him pain free.

“I am a little surprised,” Woods said. “The fact that I don’t have any pain in my lower back compared to what I was living with for years, it’s just remarkable.”

There was no mention of what happened in Jupiter just a few months earlier.

All the focus will be on Tiger Woods, the golfer, and can he be the Tiger Woods of old, the 14-time major winner.

But the questions that should be asked are about painkillers and opioid addiction and whether a couple of weeks at an “out of state private intensive program,” as Woods tweeted in early July, is going to change behavior engaged in for years? Has Woods changed his life? Because that is what we are talking about here.

Breaking an addiction is changing your life, not going back to the life that led you to May 29 in Jupiter.

Addiction, according to the psychological definition, is when someone ingests a substance that, if continued, “interferes with ordinary responsibilities and concerns, such as work, relationships or health.”

Woods put all of that at risk several months ago — his life, the lives of others on the road, his relationship with his children and so much more. That’s an addiction. It’s not a mistake in treating back pain.

Maybe the fourth back surgery has relieved him of the pain. Maybe now he doesn’t have Vicodin and Ambien in his system like he did in 2009 and again just a few months ago. But it is not that easy when it comes to addiction. It never is.

“Addressing it (opioid addiction) will require all of our effort, and it will require us to confront the crisis in all of its very real complexity,” Trump said last month.

Effort. Complexity. These are not golf terms. They are the reality of addiction.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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