The Opioid Crisis Is Ravaging Trump’s Base


Counties that voted for President Donald Trump are facing a uniquely virulent strain of the national opioid epidemic.

The median rate for drug overdose deaths in counties that voted for Trump is 16.9 per 100,000 people, compared to 13.6 per 100,000 in counties that turned out for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to data collected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation from 2013-2015.

The opioid epidemic has struck especially hard in areas that overwhelmingly supported Trump. West Virginia, the state that turned out most enthusiastically for Trump, has nine counties in which the drug overdose death rate is as high 50 per 100,000 people.

While the epidemic is pronounced in economically depressed rural areas, predominantly white, low income suburbs have been hit especially hard as well. Trump won the 77 midwestern suburban counties that fit this profile by 13 percentage points. Those counties have median drug overdose death rates of close to 22 per 100,000 people, according to the foundation’s data.

Trump, ever aware of the priorities of his base, vowed to pursue a more aggressive law enforcement based approach to combatting the epidemic during a Tuesday speech at his Bedminster, N.J. golf resort.

“Nobody is safe from this epidemic that threatens all—young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural communities. Everybody is threatened,” Trump said.

Trump placed blame for the epidemic on previous administrations who, he believes, did not respond adequately to skyrocketing overdose death rates.

“They [the Obama administration] looked at this scourge and they let it go by,” the president said. “We’re not letting it go by.”

A White House commission to address the opioid crisis led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recommended that Trump declare a national state of emergency in a preliminary report released July 31.

University of Virginia economist Christopher Ruhm published a study Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that found that mortality rates involving opioids may have been underreported by as much as 24 percent in 2014 due to incomplete documentation on death certificates.

President Trump tweeted about the study Tuesday after Fox News mentioned it.

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