U.S. Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions has described drug overdose deaths in the United States, which more than doubled the worldwide total number of terrorism-linked fatalities last year, as “the top lethal issue” in the country, echoing other national security officials from President Donald Trump’s administration.
“Our current drug epidemic is the deadliest in American history, and it is one of the most serious and lethal issues facing this country,” declared AG Sessions during the annual conference of the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children on Tuesday in Wisconsin, revealed his prepared remarks.
Sessions noted that preliminary data shows an unprecedented 60,000 overdose fatalities took place in the United States in 2016, the latest year for which data is available.
“In 2015, more than 52,000 Americans—including more than 800 Wisconsinites—lost their lives to drug overdoses,” said the U.S. attorney general. “And the numbers we have for 2016 show another increase—a big increase. Based on preliminary data, nearly 60,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses last year.”
That means there were a historic 164 fatal overdoses each day in 2016, more than the 142 the previous year when narcotics killed 52,404 people.
“That will be the highest drug death toll and the fastest increase in that death toll in American history,” proclaimed Sessions, referring to the 2016 fatalities. “This is not a sustainable trend nor an acceptable America.”
“This epidemic is filling up our cemeteries, our emergency rooms, and equally tragic—our foster homes,” added the AG.
In May, a forensics doctor told American lawmakers that the overdose fatalities are prompting “personnel shortages” and equipment failures among coroners across the United States.
Last year, the number of people killed by drugs in the United States exceeded the worldwide total of terrorism-linked casualties, including deaths (25,621) and injuries (33,814), as documented by the U.S. State Department, Breitbart News has determined.
Sessions did not break down the 2016 overdose death toll by drug.
However, the deaths from opium-based drugs alone, the main driver behind fatal overdoses in the United States (reaching 30,525 in 2015), will likely exceed the worldwide terrorism fatalities last year.
President Trump has already declared the drug overdose crisis a national emergency. Sessions called on law enforcement and social workers to promote “a culture that’s hostile to drug use,” accusing Hollywood, the media, and government officials of sending “mixed messages about the harmfulness of drugs.”
“This is not acceptable,” declared the former Republican senator from Alabama, without naming any U.S. government officials. “We must not capitulate, intellectually or morally, to drug use. We must create and foster a culture that’s hostile to drug use.”
In recent years, opioids—like synthetic fentanyl, heroin, and opium-based pharmaceuticals—have been behind most of the record number of overdose deaths.
As U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary back in April, Gen. John Kelly, now Trump’s chief of staff, blamed Latin American drug cartels for the historic number of deaths, noting, “It’s more deaths than the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1995. In a single year, we’ve lost nearly as many Americans to drug overdose as we lost in battle in World War I. Almost as many as was lost in 12 years in Vietnam.”
Consistent with what the DHS secretary said, a bipartisan White House panel recently reported, referring to the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, “With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to Sept. 11 every three weeks.”
President Trump formed the commission in late March to combat the abuse of deadly opioids like heroin, prescription painkiller medication, and synthetic fentanyl.
The White House panel’s preliminary findings succeeded in urging President Trump to declare a national emergency in response to the drug overdose epidemic gripping the United States.
Speaking to Breitbart News as a private citizen, U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko urged the American government to investigate the potential link between the increasing number of fatal drug overdoses in the United States and record production of opium and its heroin derivative in Afghanistan, the world’s top supplier of the two drugs.
Heroin alone, not including opium-based prescribed medication, was responsible for nearly a quarter (12,989) of all drug overdose deaths in 2015.
According to the DEA, a component of the AG Sessions-led Department of Justice (DOJ), only about 1 percent of the heroin seized inside the United States originates in Afghanistan, the rest comes from Latin America.
SIGAR has declared Afghanistan’s opium crisis a U.S. national security issue.
U.S.-designated terrorist groups are behind the cultivation of illicit drugs in the two countries that produce most of the heroin and cocaine in the world—Afghanistan and Colombia, respectively. While Taliban jihadists are affiliated with heroin cultivation in Afghanistan, Marxist terrorists from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are linked to the production of cocaine in Colombia.
Until recently, fatal cocaine overdoses had been steadily decreasing in the United States. Cocaine was responsible for about 13 percent (6,784) of overdose-related deaths in 2015, the highest number since 2006.