President Declares Opioid Epidemic Public Health Emergency
“[We must] face the reality that millions of people are already addicted,” said the president. “And we have no choice but to help these people, so they can return to their families.”
Overdoses Are Stealing Lives
The event began with an impassioned speech from First Lady Melania Trump, who shared stories from her talks with families who are dealing with drug addiction. She asserted that “this could be any one of us.” She also said the stigma of addiction has prevented conversation in the past and that an import part of this new campaign against drugs is awareness.
A recent government account stated that 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016. The Trumps relayed it this way.
- Every day, 175 people die of overdoses.
- That’s roughly seven people per hour.
- Overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death.
President Trump noted that there are still too many people unaware of the extent of the opioid epidemic.
Helping Medicine and Science
He said that an important aspect of this lies with the medical and first responder community, as well as the research community, and said the following things should be implemented.
- More training for people authorized to prescribe drugs
- More training, equipment and support for first responders to be able to deal with and prevent overdoses
- Limiting opioid pain prescriptions
- Keeping a national data base of opioid prescriptions
- Pushing for "addiction-free pain medication" research
- Getting the FDA involved with finding alternatives for pain relief
Stopping Drugs at the Source
The president outlined dozens of ways the government would tackle the problem at its root. He said this could include:
- “Getting as far up the drug chain as possible, from companies that distribute prescription drugs to breaking up gangs, stopping drug cartels and trafficking.”
- Urging American to understand that, “When they buy illegal drugs, they are supporting the worst, most ruthless criminal element.”
- Having the U.S. Postal Service and Homeland Security crack down on fentanyl coming into the country through the mail.
Drug Addiction Prevention
President Trump discussed the tragedy of "opioid orphans," who are born with drug dependency and may lose one or more parents to drugs and stressed the importance of prevention.
He called for money to be spent on "big" and "massive" advertising to help prevent drug use before it starts to show kids how taking drugs will ruin their lives and families.
We have to create “drug-demand reduction,” he said.
Funding the New War on Drugs
The president pointed out that individual states have asked for funds to help fight drugs and support opiate addiction treatment and that they will be getting help very soon. Since the opioid crisis is being called a "Public Health Emergency," new funding has not been allotted. It is more likely to come out of budgets from existing government agencies.
Opioid Crisis Commission
In a report released soon after the news conference, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, offered 56 solutions for the opioid crisis and opioid addiction treatment. One recommendation was nationwide drug courts. This would be an alternative system that could be used to channel substance abusers accused of crimes into opioid addiction treatment.
President Trump spoke of his older brother Fred, whom he described as having a drinking problem. He said that because of Fred's pain and tough life, and because Fred warned him to stay off alcohol, he steered clear. "He would tell me not to drink, and to this day, I haven't had a drink,” said Trump. “I have no longing for it. I had someone who guided me. I learned because of Fred.”
He said that drug use could be nipped in the bud, “If we can teach people not to take drugs and teach them not to start.” He ended by saying that the United States would approach this problem as a “national family.”
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