While speaking at the White House's Generation Next forum on Thursday, Kellyanne Conway gave some advice on avoiding drugs to her audience of college students. The counselor to President Donald Trump said people should eat junk food like ice cream and fries instead of getting addicted to substance like fentanyl, an incredibly strong opioid analgesic or painkiller.
Conway suggested that nowadays health-conscious youths were more concerned about the ingredients in their food, and abstained from items like French fries and ice cream. But they seem to have gotten it all wrong, according to the White House counselor.
"On our college campuses, your folks are reading the labels," she said. "They won’t put any sugar in their body, they won’t eat carbs anymore, and they’re very, very fastidious about what goes into their body. And then you buy a street drug for $5 or $10, it’s laced with fentanyl, and that’s it. ... Eat the ice cream, have the French fry, don’t buy the street drug."
She added, assuring the audience, "Believe me, it all works out."
As of November 2017, U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions said that Conway would be spearheading the government's efforts to combat the opioid crisis in the United States. Sessions said that Trump had chosen Conway to be the White House's go-to person on the issue to "change the perception" of the addiction in the country.
Sessions also noted that Trump was treating drug addiction in the country as a "top priority for his administration, including every senior official and Cabinet member." But Conway's authority on the subject of drug abuse and policy could be shaky; Mother Jones reported that prior to becoming the point person for battling substance abuse in the country, Conway has never officially worked as a drug policy analyst in any capacity.
Some have pointed out that this is not quite sound advice. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is a powerful opioid painkiller. The NIDA says that fentanyl is like morphine in its pain-subduing properties but when it comes to potency, fentanyl is some 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
In the case of extremely excruciating post-surgery pains, NIDA says that doctors may prescribe fentanyl. But in some cases, fentanyl is peddled through more nefarious routes with street names like "China Girl" and "Apache," according to NIDA.
In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study showing that fentanyl-related deaths were on the rise in the United States; at least 50 percent of the deaths related to opioid abuse involved some form of fentanyl. The center's researchers wrote in their paper, "Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is now a major driver of opioid overdose deaths in multiple states, with a variety of fentanyl analogs increasingly involved, if not solely implicated, in these deaths."
The researchers for the CDC report concluded, "Fentanyl was involved in more than 50 percent of opioid overdose deaths, and more than 50 percent of deaths testing positive for fentanyl and fentanyl analogs also tested positive for other illicit drugs."
Some people on social media found Conway's advice too simplistic given the severity of the drug and how it is used in American society. Twitter users, like Linda Hale, said that Conway's advice to "eat the ice cream" would lead to other problems, like diabetes. Others came forth with their own personal experiences to counter Conway's advice. One Twitter user said that they spent a year in rehabilitation for meth addiction in 2012 and noted that Conway's advice was counterproductive as "you good people know it's not an issue of willpower or ... ice cream."
Whether or not Conway considered that serious advice for young people, the reception outside the room was perhaps more baffled than anything.