President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump called the country to action to combat the opioid crisis in the United States and declared the crisis a public health emergency.
“As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue,” Trump said. “It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.”
Trump reminded the audience that drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of unintentional deaths — killing more Americans than gun homicides and motor vehicle accidents combined. He also said that the United States used more opioid pills per person than any other country in the world.
“For too long we have allowed drugs to ravage American homes, cities, and towns,” he said. “We owe it to our children and to our country to do everything in our power to address this national shame and this human tragedy.”
Trump also spoke about the importance of treatment for opioid addictions.
“We understand the need to confront reality right smack in the face — that millions of our fellow citizens are already addicted,” he said. “We want them to get the help they need.”
The president and first lady held an event in the East Room of the White House to bring attention to the crisis, joined with former addicts and families who lost loved ones to the crisis as well as members of law enforcement and Congress.
Melania Trump explained she had learned a great deal about the opioid epidemic, sharing stories she had heard of sorrow and loss.
“Drug addiction can take your friends, neighbors, or your family,” she said. “No state has been spared, and no demographic has been untouched.”
The president spoke about his brother, Fred Trump, who was an alcoholic but repeatedly told him not to drink or smoke. Trump said his brother made an impact on him.
“I learned because of Fred,” he said, saying he never drank or smoked as a result.
He specifically called out China for manufacturing synthetic opioids like Fentanyl, vowing to address the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Asia.
He also promised that the federal government was currently exploring lawsuits against companies that were manufacturing opioids.
The president vowed to secure America’s borders to stop the flow of drugs into the country and work with other countries to stop the manufacture and trafficking of illegal drugs.
“We are taking the fight directly to the criminals in places that they are producing this poison,” Trump said.