President Trump weighed in on the nation’s opioid crisis Tuesday with a stunningly simplistic statement that called for telling young people drugs are bad.
“The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” Trump said before receiving a briefing on the epidemic at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J.
“If they don't start, they won't have a problem. If they do start, it's awfully tough to get off.
"So if we can keep them from going on and maybe by talking to youth and telling them: No good, really bad for you in every way. But if they don’t start, it will never be a problem.”
The President went on to emphasize the role of law enforcement and a strong border in solving a crisis that claims the lives of more than 140 Americans a day.
“We're also very, very tough on the southern border where much of this comes in, and we're talking to China, where certain forms of man-made drug comes in and it is bad,” Trump said.
He added: “We will win. We have no alternative. We have to win for our youth.”
Trump made frequent promises on the campaign trial that he would prioritize battling the nation’s opioid scourge.
But he’s largely ignored the issue as President, drawing criticism from addiction experts.
A commission Trump created to offer solutions to the crisis last week called on the President to declare a national emergency.
The panel, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also proposed a series of measures including waiving a federal rule that limits the number of Medicaid recipients who can receive residential addiction treatment.
Trump spoke hours after the release of new government statistics showing a deepening of the crisis.
Drug overdose deaths climbed sharply in the first nine months of 2016 despite a beefed-up effort to stem the nation’s opioid epidemic, new government data shows.
Fatal overdoses hit a record 19.9 per 100,000 people in the third quarter last year, a steep jump from 16.7 in 2015, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
The rates were also alarmingly high in the first half of the year when overdose deaths reached 18.9 in the first quarter and 19.3 in the second.
The corresponding period in 2015 saw rates of 16.3 and 16.2 respectively, the data shows.
The new figures demonstrate the depths of the crisis gripping the country.
A total of 52,404 people died of fatal overdoses in 2015 — a rate of 16.3 per 100,000.
Of those, more than 33,000 were attributed to opioids, including prescription painkillers as well as heroin and the even more potent fentanyl.
Experts predict a marked rise in the 2016 figures due to increasing numbers of prescription painkiller users turning to heroin and fentanyl, which are cheaper and more deadly.
In a separate study released Monday, University of Virginia researchers found that prescription opioid drugs and heroin death rates from 2008 to 2014 were substantially under-reported.
The researchers, after reviewing death certificates over the six-year period, concluded that the rate of fatal opioid overdoses was 24% greater than previously reported totals.
The heroin death rate was 22% higher, according to the study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
New York City has been particularly hard hit by the epidemic, recording a record 1,374 unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2016.
Some 937 people died of drug overdoses the previous year.