Eric Douglas Published

Gupta: Biden To Focus On Opioids For State Of The Union Speech

A photo of Rahul Gupta standing outside the White House.
FILE - Dr. Rahul Gupta, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, is shown at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Washington. Gupta was one of the first witnesses whose video deposition was played at a bench trial Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in which several pharmaceutical manufacturers are accused in a lawsuit of contributing to the crisis. He testified that the opioid epidemic got so bad in drug-ravaged West Virginia that the state was having trouble finding foster parents to care of children.
Alex Brandon/AP

Controlling fentanyl and reducing overdose deaths are expected to be a big part of President Biden’s State of the Union address according to Dr. Rahul Gupta, the former state health officer for West Virginia and now the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). 

During a press call before the speech, he discussed the overdose death rate. 

“More than 100,000 Americans die from drug overdose or poisonings,” Gupta said. “That’s an American dying every five minutes of every hour of every day.”

Gupta said, in the last year, officials have seized nearly 15,000 pounds of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, at the border. 

“Domestically, we’ve seized 26,000 pounds of fentanyl, and denied nearly $9 billion of profits for drug traffickers,” he said. “And because of these efforts, combined with our historic public health advances, we’ve now seen five straight months – five straight months – where all those numbers have decreased. That’s almost 3,000 people who have not died, and instead are at the dinner table each night.”

Gupta said Biden will lay out a plan to continue to fight the problem. 

“We’re going to build on the historic progress we’re making by using advanced technology to stop more fentanyl at the border and working with commercial package delivery companies to catch more packages containing fentanyl,” he said. “And we’re gonna work with Congress to permanently control fentanyl related substances so we can make sure that traffickers are held accountable.”

Gupta said Biden will launch a national campaign with Ad Council to educate young people on saving lives from the dangers of fentanyl and ensure that everyone who needs treatment for substance use disorder – including people who are incarcerated at higher risk for overdose death when they’re released – gets it. He said they also plan to expand access to life saving medications for opioid use disorder. 

Separately, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., joined a bipartisan, bicameral group urging Biden to restore the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to a cabinet-level position. It was downgraded during the Obama administration. 

Elevating the post would enable ONDCP to more effectively coordinate drug control efforts across federal agencies and enhance the Biden administration’s response to the opioid epidemic. 

As a senator, Biden supported the ONDCP Director’s serving at the cabinet level.