In a recent White House speech, President Trump declared the country in the midst of "The worst drug crisis in American . . . history." Trump dedicated most of the speech to the opioid crisis. Trump also spoke emotionally about his brother’s battle with alcoholism.
The president said, "Last year 64,000 Americans were lost to overdoses. More people are dying from drug overdoses today than from gun homicides and motor vehicles combined."
Trump is following the path of every chief executive since Richard Nixon coined the term "War On Drugs" on June 18, 1971. Estimates place government expenditures, since then, to fight that war at $1 trillion.
Opioids are the latest drugs ravaging America.
Fighting the war on drugs is expensive. It costs society even more. The most recent data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) puts the financial toll of addiction and abuse of prescription drugs, painkillers, alcohol, and illegal drugs at $350 billion per year in lost work productivity, healthcare, and crime.
History proves prohibition approaches don’t work. On the opposite side, early evidence regarding the impact of legalizing marijuana is mixed. A study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics shows in states where the recreational use of marijuana has been legalized, pot use among highschool students is steadily rising.
Addiction is more far-reaching than opioids. Addictions have bedeviled this country since inception. The negative impacts of alcoholism led to the temperance movement and Prohibition. No drug has hooked more users than tobacco.
Americans are addicted to eating, gambling, shopping, the Internet and the latest popular addiction "Weinstein-ism" (formerly sex-addiction). These are some of the many addictions that people battle with even as the President focuses on opioid addiction.
It’s an oversimplification to say; addiction is complex. Researchers and doctors spend decades studying addictions. Controlling any addiction is incredibly difficult. The National Institue on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states, "Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences."
Addiction originates in the part of the mind called the limbic brain. It’s your inner four-year-old. It wants to feel good, now. It screams until pacified.
The more rational, and adult part of the mind is the cognitive brain. Most people control their limbic brain with their cognitive brain. For some people, the limbic brain is stronger, but this is not a sign of weakness.
The body produces a substance called dopamine, which soothes the limbic brain. Dopamines create pleasure. Some people receive dopamine from running. We call it "runner’s high."
Some people use drugs, alcohol, opioids, and other substances or unhealthy behaviors to flood the limbic brain with dopamine creating “euphoria.” As a person continues to use a substance, the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine. Over time, the same amount of the substance creates less of a high and more is needed to get the same effect. Soon the substance’s negative effects become more pronounced.
Trump’s speech on opioids got me thinking about Trump’s personality. A couple of Trumps more admirable traits are that he never drank alcohol — or smoked.
But make no mistake, Trump is an addict. Trump is ruled by his limbic brain. He is famously impulsive and reactionary. Trump’s addiction is to attention.
Trump has sought the spotlight since the 1980s. Consistent with the characteristics of addiction, Trump has needed more and more attention to get enough dopamine to create the "high" he gets from the limelight.
Probably more than any president in the modern era, Donald Trump’s follows his limbic brain. It is what makes him so different from leaders we're accustomed to, who exhibit their cognitive brain strengths.
During the primary campaign, the limbic approach worked to his advantage. He sought and received so much attention that he denied competitors any chance of getting their message through.
Many pundits thought a limbic brain led general campaign would be less successful. Whether Trump was that good or Hillary was that bad is a topic for another day. The result is certain — Donald J.Trump won the White House.
We now know what happens when the biggest narcissist ever receives virtually unlimited attention. Donald Trump campaigned and now governs with his limbic brain. What was so helpful campaigning in an ADD/ADHD world is detrimental while governing.
The feuds with the media, foreign leaders, and even other Republicans isolates Trump and pleases an ever-shrinking core group of voters. Tweeting negatively about Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., may send a rush of dopamine to Trump’s limbic brain, but it endangers his Republican Senate majority and makes accomplishing his agenda that much harder.
The president correctly identified the opioid crisis in America, but addiction is a broader problem. President Trump can start tackling it by setting an example and breaking his addiction to Twitter.
Andy Bloom is a former communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio, and as operations manager oversaw content for Talk Radio 1210 WPHT, and Sports Radio 94 WIP, Philadelphia for eight years. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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