Tom MacArthur’s Opioid Strategy is Hollow and Inefficient

This Letter to the Editor was submitted to the Burlington County Times on April 2, 2017

I read with interest your front page article of Friday March 31st entitled “MacArthur seeks funds to tackle drug abuse.” Sadly, I came away disappointed, realizing that the strategy of the congressman is hollow and insufficient.

I found it especially egregious because this same congressman voted for the bill which would have gutted essential health benefits under the Affordable Care Act such as drug addiction services, including counseling and psychotherapy. The funding MacArthur supports is merely aimed at supporting law enforcement efforts of drug interdiction, rather than helping addicts to recover.

The fact that the countries from which we import opioids have less of an opioid usage problem than we do indicates that the explosion of drug use is one caused by a demand for those drugs, rather than the influx of the drugs. Thus, successful efforts at curtailing dangerous drug abuse will be accomplished by ending demand, not supply.

MacArthur’s efforts are primarily aimed at the supply end of the drug market, not at slowing demand. He pays lip service to the issue by including training for physicians in the use of alternative prescriptions for pain management, while simultaneously preventing doctors from offering safer substitutes for pain management.

For instance, here in New Jersey the legislature approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes. However, the current governor, a close ally of MacArthur, has worked tirelessly at keeping that law from being implemented by creating nearly insurmountable hurdles. Similarly, MacArthur has stated that he is opposed to the legalization of marijuana, even though studies indicate that states that have legalized marijuana have lower rates of opioid addiction. In fact, states with long-standing medical marijuana statutes in place have approximately 25% lower rates of opioid mortality.

New Jersey, largely because of leaders like MacArthur and the governor, have kept our state in the dark ages when it comes to the reform of marijuana laws. That, in turn, has forced our physicians to, instead, prescribe highly addictive opioids, causing our state to suffer from a high rate of opioid deaths. MacArthur’s latest efforts offer little hope.

Al Finkelstein is a resident of the NJ 3rd Congressional District. ┬áHe previous published a video reply to Tom MacArthur’s Fundraising Campaign Smear of Constituents here.