Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a solution for opioid addiction: Just take a couple of aspirin and go to sleep instead.
Sessions made the suggestion Tuesday night at a Heritage Foundation event celebrating the birthday of Ronald Reagan. The attorney general observed that Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" message had faded from public consciousness in favor of a new permissiveness toward marijuana. "We don't think illegal drug use is 'recreation'," he said. "Lax enforcement, permissive rhetoric and the media have undermined the essential need to say no to drug use. Don’t start. That’s what President Trump said to us the other day in a meeting. What did Nancy Reagan say? Just say no. Don’t start this stuff.”
Sessions made it clear that he believed marijuana was a gateway to opioid use. During a Q&A, he said there was a 7 percent drop in opioid prescriptions last year and that he hopes to see the decline continue. "We think doctors are just prescribing too many," he said. "Sometimes you just need to take two Bufferins or something and go to bed."
(Bufferin, which faded from public consciousness in the late '80s, is a type of buffered aspirin.)
Opioid pills "become so addictive," Sessions added. "The DEA said that a huge percentage of the heroin addictions starts with prescriptions. That may be an exaggerated number — they had it as high as 80 percent — we think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs."
However, according to a federally funded study by RAND Corporation released earlier this month, states with medical marijuana programs have 20 percent fewer opioid-related deaths than states without them. Earlier studies showed similar results, the researchers said. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the majority of marijuana users do not go on to abuse harder drugs. In fact, most opioid deaths are related to heroin and fentanyl, and nearly half of young people who inject heroin abused opioid painkillers first — not marijuana.
Meanwhile, President Trump's top appointee at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a 24-year-old with no relevant qualifications, stepped down in December amid controversy about his appointment (including the fact that his previous employer said he was fired for not showing up for work). White House adviser Kellyanne Conway has taken control of the anti-opioid push, and Trump is expected to call for deep cuts to the ONDCP, which has steered federal drug policy since the Reagan years, Politico reported Tuesday.