- - Thursday, June 14, 2018


During a recent visit to Warrenton, Virginia, I sat down with 10 sets of parents to talk about the opioid crisis. One of the other speakers was Special Agent Tom Murphy of the Virginia State Police. Tom is a supervisor on a regional drug and gang task force, and he discussed the work of the multi-agency group combatting trafficking.

I’ve known Tom for many years as we frequently worked together when I was a local prosecutor. However, Tom spoke just briefly about his work because he was there to share his story about his son, Jason, who tragically died of a drug overdose last December, just a week before Christmas.

Jason was a talented artist and musician and loved going to the beach. Like so many others, he was prescribed opioids after a work-related injury, became addicted and eventually transitioned to heroin.

It’s a tragic irony that someone like Tom, who is so invested in stopping drugs from entering the community, would lose a child to drug overdose. That’s because the opioid epidemic doesn’t discriminate — no matter where you live, what you look like or what your faith is, this crisis can affect you or someone you know.

Every American needs to know the truth about opioids so we can spread the truth and turn the tide on this crisis.

That’s why the Trump administration just launched “The Truth About Opioids” — a public education campaign focused on preventing and reducing the misuse of opioids, closing the knowledge gap about the risks of misusing opioids, and knowing what to do when someone becomes addicted.

The sad truth is that Jason’s story isn’t unique — it’s one version of a similar story that’s playing out all across the country. Every day, 116 Americans are dying from an overdose involving opioids like prescription pain medications, heroin and fentanyl.

I meet a lot of parents like Tom, and a common thread is woven through all the stories they tell me: “I didn’t know.” The victims of addiction — both those we’ve lost and the family members they’ve left behind — didn’t know what they were up against.

They didn’t know that the pills their doctor prescribed were addictive. They didn’t know that the opioid pills they bought on the street after becoming addicted were actually counterfeit pills made with fentanyl. They didn’t know that the overwhelming majority of new heroin users misused prescription opioids first — and they didn’t know where to turn when they needed help.

Through this media campaign, we are sharing compelling stories of real people who struggled with opioid addiction, got the help they needed and achieved recovery. We’ve also launched a website at www.opioids.thetruth.com that provides information about how to avoid misusing opioids — and how to get help for those who need it.

More than 42,000 people died from drug overdoses involving opioids in 2016. This campaign will spread the truth about opioids in order to prevent drug use, and will help put a face on the statistics.

This initiative builds on a number of actions taken by the Trump administration to address the opioid crisis. In March, President Trump signed a funding bill that provided $4 billion to combat the opioid crisis through law enforcement, public education, drug courts, prevention, treatment, research, recovery support services, and safer prescribing.

He also launched the Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand, which is aimed at ending the over-prescription of opioid medications, stopping the flow of drugs across our borders and into our communities, and supporting treatment and recovery in the community.

Recovery from addiction is possible. A big part of why I’m so committed to this mission is the people — so many families are affected by addiction, and I want to help turn this crisis around. I’m inspired by the millions of people living in recovery, and the countless parents who have turned their grief into action.

Take Aimee Manzoni-D’Arpino from Massachusetts. Aimee and a group of other parents recently came to the White House to talk about their children. Aimee’s son, Emmett, was one of the more than 42,000 who died in 2016 but she wants Emmett to be more than a statistic. Emmett was a National Honor Society student and was studying computer science on a full academic scholarship when he died. Like Jason, he had a bright future ahead of him.

Aimee’s visit coincided with a meeting of officials from across the federal government who are working to reduce the supply of drugs flooding over our borders. This was a high-level, strategic meeting focused on drug interdiction, and it was attended by committed, motivated and knowledgeable drug policy professionals.

These people know all the facts, but I wanted them to remember the very real personal losses that drive our mission, so I invited Aimee to join the meeting to talk about Emmett. When she told Emmett’s story, Aimee created a lasting impression on everyone in the room.

That’s exactly what “The Truth About Opioids” is going to do — increase public awareness and make sure that young people, parents and community members “Know the Truth and Spread the Truth” about the risks of opioids and where to turn when they need help.

• Jim Carroll is deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

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