China and the U.S. announced more cooperation this week to battle the synthetic drugs that are killing more than 140 Americans every day. Their target: the chemicals used to make fentanyl compounds.
Earlier in 2017, the White House declared opioid addiction a public health emergency, but that designation is about to expire, and some critics say the president is merely resurrecting failed tactics from the 1980s.
CGTN’s Giles Gibson reports from a recovery center doing its part to help.
Follow Giles Gibson on Twitter @Giles_News
While it looks like a normal suburban home, Champ House Recovery is actually on the front line of America’s battle against the opioid epidemic.
Sixteen men live in the Bowie, Maryland home, run by a non-profit group that offers a structured environment for men recovering from addiction.
Champ House resident Jeff Ringler first tried heroin when he was just 17 years old, and has been battling addiction for most of his adult life.
“Once I’m in full blown addiction, I don’t care about you, I don’t care about anybody around me, I’m gonna do what I have to do, and I’ve got prison time to prove it, I’ve got the scars on my body,” Ringler said. “I’m gonna walk over you, I’m gonna rob your grandmother. I’m gonna… whatever it takes.”
Steve Clark volunteers at the house, and says he’s seen a big change in recent years.
“18 years ago, the majority of the men who came to the program here were alcoholics, with a little bit of drugs,” he said. “In the last five or six years, we’ve seen a complete shift where probably it’s reversed.”
There were more than 30,000 deaths involving opioids in the United States in just 2015. The state of Maryland alone saw a 20 percent increase in the overdose death rate from 2014-2015.
In 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a 90-day health emergency, and said the “federal government is aggressively fighting the opioid epidemic on all fronts.”
It’s the latest front in the U.S. war on drugs: Heroin laced with synthetic opioids. First it was fentanyl, which is 50 times more lethal than heroin. Now, it’s carfentanil, which is nearly 100 times deadlier.
Trump’s critics in the healthcare industry, however, say the administration’s entire approach is wrong.
“The danger that we’ve got here – and the reason that I say the 80s called and they want their drug war back – is that this administration just really seems committed to fighting an opioid war on the supply side,” John Gorman, executive chairman of the Gorman Health Group, said. “That is through interdiction, through law enforcement, through trying to raise the prices of these drugs on the street, which we know just doesn’t work.”
The men at Champ House are the lucky ones. Residents like Ringler see transformations every single day.
“I watch guys walk in, and they’ll just have this dead look about them, like life has no meaning, they have nothing, they’re done,” Ringler said. And then you see all of that came back to life, you see them a month, two months, three months later, you’ve got a whole new person in front of you, they’re living, they’ve got a job and being productive. They have a life.”