How Would You Spend $100B To Help With Opioid Addiction?

By Kelly Burch 02/16/18

Experts from various fields shared how they would use the funding to curb the addiction crisis.

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What would you do to solve the opioid crisis?

If you've been following the crisis, you have an opinion—perhaps a strong one—on what could be done and what we need more of. To see what a variety of people think, the New York Times polled 30 experts in a variety of sectors about how they would spend $100 billion over five years to address opioid addiction and overdoses. 

According to the data, 47% of the people polled said they would spend money on treatment, with 18% focusing on increasing access to medication-assisted treatment and 11% dedicating more funds to Medicaid. Overall, increasing access to treatment was a top priority for more than one-third of the people polled. 

Everyone said that at least some funds should go toward providing addiction treatment in jails and prisons, where many people with substance use disorders are often left with no access to resources. 

Twenty-seven percent of people would spend to address the demand for drugs, including through community development, post-incarceration support and education. 

“Until we provide people with an alternative source of dopamine, in the form of family connections, meaningful work and a sense of purpose in their lives, the problem of addiction will continue to grow,” said Dr. Anna Lembke, medical director of addiction medicine at Stanford University.

Eleven percent of people said they would focus on reducing the supply of drugs, although no one mentioned the border wall. There was some interest in using money to interdict drugs, particularly fentanyl being brought into the United States from Mexico and China. 

“No one in the public health community would say that we should let China keep sending fentanyl to the United States,” said Jon Zibbell, a public health scientist at RTI International.

Still, a little under one-third of the experts did not dedicate any funds for increased policing or interdiction. 

“Too many people in the public health community see police as the enemy, when they should see them as valuable partners in responding to the opioid epidemic,” said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford. 

Many of the experts who spoke with the New York Times also pointed out that spending could only do so much. Social changes around pain treatment and the stigma surrounding drug addiction are also important for making lasting change, they noted.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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