Donald Trump’s victory in the United States Presidential Election, 2016 was quite an upset, but it is not the only shocking aspect of the President-elect triumph. It turns out that there is a link between Trump’s US presidency victory and the opioid crisis that has been plaguing the United States.
It seems that the communities that were substantial Trump supporters during the election period were the ones that have been severely affected by the opioid epidemic. Chris Arnade, a photojournalist, recently mentioned that while he was documenting addiction, he ended up writing about the people who supported Donald Trump in the election. According to him, the opioid epidemic and Trump are synonymous, and he seems to have little hope. It was not surprising for him that the counties from which Trump received most of his votes also happen to have higher rates of opioid-related deaths.
In her recent paper, “Deaths of Despair …,” Shannon Monnat analyzed the voting data from 2016 Presidential Election. Shannon is a rural demographer and sociologist at Penn State. Based on her analysis, she claims that Trump’s margins were highest in counties with higher than average rates of drug-related deaths. Even the rates of alcohol- and suicide-related deaths in these counties are higher than average.
The emphasis of Shannon’s research was on the Appalachia, the industrial Midwest, and New England. Apparently, the environment and situation in these places have actually fostered the addiction, depression, and suicide, contributing to the growing crisis. Shannon has actually them the “deaths of despair.”
There is a sizable trend underlying Shannon’s findings. Angus Deaton and Anne Case, economists from Princeton, made another shocking discovery in 2015. Apparently, when compared to 1999, the rate of opioid-related deaths in white, middle-aged Americans, especially those who have received basic education and/or are high school graduates, rose by 20% in 2013. Had the rates stayed flat, over one million lives would not have been lost between those years.
As of now, any potential causation is uncertain, so the link between Trump's presidential victory and the opioid epidemic is merely a correlation. Even in her paper, Shannon has admitted that an explicit caution link does not exist between Trump supporters and alcohol, drugs and suicide. Shannon explains that human behavior is driven complex demographic, economic and social factors that cannot be ignored. Furthermore, the communities where people mostly voted for Trump likely have their individual context, which also matters.
Regardless, what really matters now is whether or not the President-elect will take this crisis seriously and devise an effective strategy to deal with the epidemic that has been tormenting his voters and the rest of the country. However, Trump’s solution for this whole crisis seems to revolve around separating Mexico and US with a wall on the border. Unfortunately, even that will not prove to be effective because the most common opioid drugs, such as illegal fentanyl, have not been entering the United States through the border, but is rather being inadvertently delivered in the mail.
Building a wall or sending addicts to prison is not solution for the opioid epidemic that has spread throughout the United States like cancer. If the ones who voted for Trump really are the ones who are suffering the most from this crisis, then the President-elect truly does need to think about this matter more seriously.