Want data on substance use disorders? Talk to Trump.

As Austin and I have discussed extensively, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is working to finalize a rule that would restore research access to critical government data relating to substance use disorders.

But SAMHSA has blown a key deadline. If the rule had been released by last Monday, it would have taken effect before President Trump was sworn in. A spokesperson for the agency has told us that the agency is now hoping to release the rule by the end of the year—which means that the rule will still be pending on January 20.

This is worrisome. President Trump is expected to put a moratorium on all pending rules. Some of those rules may eventually be finalized; others will be withdrawn.

There’s no way to know if the SAMHSA rule will make it through the vetting process. Austin and I are somewhat hopeful: Trump has expressed real concern about the opioid epidemic, and this data is the single best way to learn about which approaches do and don’t work. But the rule is also controversial, and the Trump administration could just kill it.

As best we can tell (not privy to internal deliberations), this is an unforced error. Several years ago, SAMHSA, without notice and without explanation, insisted on scrubbing data that researchers had relied on for decades. Missing this deadline by a single month fires another bullet into the foot.


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