Presidential panel calls opioid abuse a national emergency

 
With 53,000 Americans dying from drug overdoses last year, it’s time to treat opioid addictions and overdoses as a national emergency, a presidential commission recommends. It’s a message that should propel Washington to do more about a lethal health crisis.
 
The commission’s report holds nothing back in underlining the scope of opioid misuse and the clear need to widen the fight. The painkillers have also brought on a deadly spike in heroin use, felt acutely in San Francisco where 6,500 discarded needles were collected in the Civic Center area in the past two months.
 
The urgent call for an emergency response is a rhetorical step, designed to spotlight the need for more funds, rule changes and research to quell addiction. In 2016, drug overdoses from opioids and heroin killed 53,000 people. In 2015, the commission said drug deaths exceeded fatalities from car crashes, gun violence and AIDS.
 
The panel took a noteworthy route in making its arguments. Opioids and its kindred drugs should be treated as a health problem, not solely a law enforcement issue. The recommendations pointed up steps that emphasize rehab work, greater Medicaid access, wider treatment options and the suggestion that police carry naloxone, a quick-acting antidote to drug overdoses that can save lives.
 
Left out were calls for heavier sentences for drug offenders and property seizures from suspects, goals that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has mentioned in taking a tough-on-crime outlook on drugs. Also unmentioned are injection sites, which San Francisco is weighing, to allow needle users to shoot drugs in safe surroundings.
 
The White House panel has a direct pipeline to President Trump. He’s long pledged to take action. It’s time for him to deliver.