- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 21, 2022

President Biden’s first drug control strategy promotes the greater use of the opioid antidote Naloxone, syringe giveaways and a promise to step up border enforcement to reduce drug smuggling, administration officials said.

The president is sending the plan to Congress on Thursday amid a record number of overdose deaths in the U.S. A total of 106,854 people died of overdoses in the 12 months ending November 2021, mostly from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

“The overdose epidemic is an urgent priority,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Strategy. “This is the most dynamic drug environment we have ever seen in this nation.”

Dr. Gupta told reporters that the availability of Naloxone, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, is a crucial part of the administration’s plan.

“All too often, these drugs wind up in communities where Naloxone isn’t readily available,” he said. “The most important action we can take to save lives right now is to have Naloxone in the hands of everyone who needs it, without fear or judgment.”

A White House document states that the strategy “calls for greater access to harm reduction interventions including naloxone, drug test strips, and syringe services programs.” It said federal agencies will be directed “to integrate harm reduction into the U.S system of care to save lives and increase access to treatment.”

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Dr. Gupta said the administration also wants to double admissions to drug-treatment facilities for those most at risk of overdose deaths.

Addiction and treatment programs have hit close to home with the president. His son, Hunter Biden, has struggled with addictions to crack cocaine and alcohol.

White House officials said stronger border security is another element of the plan. Aides said the president’s new budget includes a proposed $300 million increase for Customs and Border Protection, an agency that is being overwhelmed with a surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

CBP recently released plans to hire about 2,000 more officers in the next three years. In 2021, the El Paso, Texas, sector seized six times more fentanyl than it did in 2018.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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