President Trump blamed hardened criminals, pharmaceutical companies, Mexico and China for the opioid crisis in a White House address Thursday, reaching for the same targets he’s long used for other problems.
Speaking in the East Room of the White House, Trump declared the abuse of opioids a public health emergency and outlined steps to fight it, including new efforts to curb prescription abuse, reduce the importation of certain drugs and educate children on the risks.
Trump returned to familiar themes from his speeches on other issues, describing hardened criminals who push drugs on U.S. streets, blaming pharmaceutical companies for over-prescribing pain medications, arguing that a border wall with Mexico would “greatly help with this problem,” talking about China’s role in the production of fentanyl.
“We must stop the flow of all types of illegal drugs into our communities,” he said, in remarks that echoed his thoughts on violent crime in general. “For too long, dangerous criminal cartels have been allowed to infiltrate and spread throughout our nation.”
Trump, who has criticized pharmaceutical companies for “out of control” drug pricing in the past, said the FDA will provide more training to doctors who prescribe drugs to prevent abuse and has requested that one drug, Opana ER, no longer be sold.
“We are requiring that a specific opioid, which is truly evil, be taken off the market immediately,” he said.
He noted that his Administration is “dedicated to enforcing our immigration laws, enforcing our maritime security and securing our borders” as part of the crackdown on opioids, echoing his remarks on undocumented immigration.
He said that the U.S. Postal Service and the Department of Homeland Security will be inspecting packages coming into the country from overseas to “hold back the flood of cheap and deadly fentanyl,” which is up to 100 times as potent as morphine, noting that he would “mention this as a top priority” in his next meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He added that the Department of Justice has “indicted major Chinese drug traffickers.”
And he noted that the U.S. would work with other countries with opioid problems, singling out China and Latin America.
“We have to get together. Because they have similar problems to what we have. Some countries have bigger problems than we have,” he said. “Whether that country is China, whether it’s a country in Latin America, it makes no difference.”
His remarks took an unusually personal turn when he talked about his older brother Fred, who was an alcoholic and died in 1981 at the age of 43. Fred was a “great guy, best looking guy, best personality, much better than mine,” Trump said, “But he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol, and he would tell me, ‘Don’t drink, don’t drink.’ He was substantially older and I listened to him and I respected [him]… To this day, I’ve never had a drink, and I have no longing for it. I have no interest in it.”
“He really helped me,” Trump continued. “I had somebody that guided me.”
Because of Fred’s influence on him, Trump said he wants to focus on anti-drug education as well, through “really tough, really big, really great advertising so we get to people before they start.” He described showing young children the effects of drug addiction to persuade them never to start using.
He sounded an optimist note as he described the Administration’s new approach.
“We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic,” he said. “We can do it.”