Feb. 115, 2024 – Gupta: When we look at these types of epidemics across the country, where we find successful examples is where there’s a really good balance of both expanding treatment, accessing life-saving drugs, like Narcan, which actually are an opioid antagonist and connecting people to treatment. And one of the things that needs to be done is to ensure that naloxone (the generic name for Narcan) is available in more public spaces — malls and schools and restaurants and other offices. But at the same time, also going after the sort of the financial networks of drug trafficking.

Today’s announcement is really about expanding treatment access, removing barriers to treatment, providing more resources in terms of test strips for not just fentanyl but also xylazine, the animal tranquilizer that is now being found more and more mixed with fentanyl, and making the response so much more complicated. The goal here is really to prioritize saving lives, prioritize, getting people the assistance that they need in a not stigmatizing way. And that happens when we treat addiction as a disease.

Where does the administration stand right now on supervised consumption sites, where people can consume illegal drugs in a sterile, supervised environment? If Biden gets four more years, do you think we’ll see real change on that front?

Let me first talk about the harm-reduction approach that this administration is taking — the first in history to do so. We’ve taken an approach to focus on three specific policies that include getting naloxone into the hands of people. Having opioid overdose reversal medication is really the best way to save lives immediately.