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Gupta right choice for U.S. drug czar

It seems incredible, but should Dr. Rahul Gupta’s nomination to become new director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy be confirmed, he will be the first physician to serve as our nation’s “drug czar.”

President Joe Biden has leaned on Gupta already, as an adviser on drug control policy during his presidential transition, and appears to have found that perspective valuable. Now, he wants Gupta to make a difference on a national scale.

“Dr. Gupta brings firsthand experience as a medical doctor and public health official using evidence-based strategies to address the overdose epidemic in West Virginia,” a White House statement said.

It’s true. If you’re going to tackle the plague that has been affecting our country for a decade, it is important to be working with someone who has been at ground zero.

“Dr. Rahul Gupta’s nomination to serve as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy means someone with firsthand knowledge of the opioid crisis, especially in West Virginia, will be coordinating the national fight against the drug epidemic that continues to ravage our nation,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

It seems, then, as though the folks in D.C. are counting on Gupta’s proximity to the worst of the problem to help solve it. That is not a bad strategy.

Should he become “drug czar,” however, Gupta will have to bring with him an honest assessment of the ups and downs we have experienced here in the Mountain State. The number of drug overdose deaths in West Virginia increased from 878 in 2019 to 1,275 in 2020. It’s not all been sunshine and roses here.

Gupta knows that, and he will bring that experience with him to his new post. In some ways, it may be an advantage for him not to go in believing there is a magic bullet. Now, here’s hoping once his nomination is confirmed, those who have been living in D.C.’s bubble will actually listen to him.

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