Donald Trump said Monday that he believes that building a wall on the Mexican border will help stop the heroin and painkiller epidemic killing tens of thousands of Americans every year.
At a town hall meeting Monday in Columbus, Ohio, the Republican presidential nominee stressed the need to stop the flow of drugs into the United States, saying he would “cut off the source, build a wall.”
“If I win, I’m going to stop it,” he said, after being asked what he would do to address the opioid epidemic.
The number of US overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin, has nearly quadrupled since 1999. But many of those deaths have been linked to prescription painkillers, which have been prescribed by American doctors and which are a gateway to heroin addiction.
Increasingly, US experts say Americans are using fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is being shipped into the United States from Mexico and by Chinese suppliers.
Trump said that he would “spend the money” to help addicted Americans get treatment.
He related his experience in New Hampshire during that state’s primary campaign, one of the few other times that the Republican nominee has spoken about drug addiction. In meetings in the Granite State, which like Ohio has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic, he said people would “always” tell him that heroin was the state’s biggest problem.
“I’d say, ‘This doesn’t look like it’s a heroin problem-type place.’ They’d say, ‘Mr. Trump, it is flowing across our southern border. It’s cheaper than candy. Our kids are being poisoned,'” Trump said. “So I’d say, ‘Where do you think it comes from? What’s the source?'”
According to Trump, the people in New Hampshire would tell him: “It comes from the southern border.”
The Republican nominee did not comment Monday on prescription-painkiller abuse or the emergence of fentanyl as an alternative or a supplement to heroin. He did speak to the scale of the problem. Nearly 30,000 Americans are now dying annually from opioid overdoses.
“It’s not just in New Hampshire, it’s all over the place,” Trump said. “Mothers and fathers are losing their children.”
He then turned to treatment as another avenue for addressing the crisis, though he offered few specifics beyond a pledge to spend money on recovery.
“It’s very hard to get out of that addiction of heroin,” he said. “That’s the other thing we’re going to do: We’re going to take all of these kids — and people, not just kids — that are totally addicted and they can’t break it. We’re going to work with them, we’re going to spend the money, we’re gonna get that habit broken.”
Then turning back to the problem of “the southern border,” Trump took a parting shot at his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, who has released her own plan on substance abuse.
“Hillary Clinton isn’t going to do that,” he said. “Number one, she’s not strong enough to do it. She wouldn’t have a clue.”