Opinion: Time for Tough Love to End the Opioid Epidemic

My opponent, David Trone, is wrong on how best to combat the opioid epidemic that is devastating families here in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

On his website and in social media, Mr. Trone embraces a recent Washington Post column lauding a Canadian experiment using publicly funded “overdose prevention sites” where addicts can “safely” shoot up under the supervision of a medic.

Really? Facilitate drug abuse with public funds?

What kind of a message does that send? Not only do such “supervised consumption sites” attract criminals, drug dealers and other trouble, they confuse what the addict wants with what the addict needs. Enabling drug addiction masquerading as compassion doesn’t help anyone.

Indeed, such sites don’t even accomplish their intended purpose – reducing deaths, according to a recently published study in the International Journal of Drug Policy. This study found that such sites have “no significant effect on overdose mortality.”

photo of Hoeber
Amie Hoeber

It sounds nice to speak of compassion but what’s actually needed is tough love. The same sort of love that prompts a parent to say “no” out of concern for the greater good. These shoot-up sites may look compassionate, but they only allow the addict to continue and do nothing to stop others from joining him.

At all levels – personal, community, national – we must be both tough and loving: Tough toward those who profit from the sale of misery, loving by focusing on providing an avenue to recovery for those caught in addiction’s embrace. Of course, the most effective solution is not to get addicted in the first place. That requires plain-spoken education programs in our homes, schools and places of employment. It also requires a crackdown on doctors who over-prescribe opioids, pharmacies where abusive amounts are sold and illegal labs and border crossings where the Drug Enforcement Agency says more than half the illegal drugs found on our streets enter the country. And yet there is only silence from my opponent when so many in his party call for open borders and disbanding large elements of our border defenses.

At a town hall on opioids that I convened earlier this year in Frederick, both concerned citizens and recovering addicts said that one way to keep young people away from drugs is to make sure they have alternatives to fill their time. Boredom leads to experimentation and so on down that slippery slope. The citizens and recovering addicts also urged increased funding for detox centers, longer term residential recovery facilities, counseling and community support for changing the lifestyles that got the users into trouble in the first place.

I know through personal experience that this approach is the one that has the best chance of success. What also was made clear is that for the 6th Congressional District a cookie-cutter program devised and imposed by federal mandate will not work as well as programs tailored to local needs and assets.

There are several such local programs currently successfully operating here and more are in development. My job as a member of Congress will be to see that federal funds help underwrite these programs without tying them in government red tape.

I have been asked by several surveys in the past year about the opioid epidemic and here is what I intend to do in Congress:

  • I will support imposing requirements that “big pharma” help pay for solutions to the problem they helped create;
  • I will back laws and regulations to reduce the availability of illegal drugs;
  • I will treat the flow of drugs across our borders as the national security issue that it is; 
  • And I will work to get federal grants to help fund locally tailored after-school and work programs to keep people from getting involved with drugs and to provide rehab and re-entry options to meet the needs of our communities – designed to fit local situations rather than defined by a bloating federal bureaucracy.

Together these are steps to get people off drugs; not help them to stay on them. It’s time for tough love if we are to end the opioid epidemic.


The writer is the Republican nominee for Congress in Maryland’s 6th District.


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