Donald Trump delved into new details of his plan to deal with nation’s worsening opioid epidemic on Saturday, going beyond his earlier promise to “build a wall” by pledging to crack down on prescription drug abuse while offering help to those struggling with addiction.
In a statement released before a rally in New Hampshire, Trump praised Congress’s passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act as “an important step.” He promised to increase first responders’ access to life-saving Narcan, encourage in-patient treatment for people struggling with addiction, and incentivize state and local governments to mandate treatment.
The number of US deaths from opioid overdose has roughly quadrupled since 1999, reaching a record of more than 28,000 in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem is especially severe in rural counties along the Rust Belt, where support for Trump is strong.
To date, Trump’s comments on the issue have largely focused on building a wall on the Mexican border, which he says will stop the flow of heroin into the US, and swiftly deporting who he calls “illegal immigrant drug traffickers.” Saturday’s disclosure marked the first time he has addressed the issue of prescription drug abuse in detail in what he called a “doubling down.”
“It is tragedy enough that so many Americans are struggling with life-threatening addiction,” Trump said in prepared remarks. “We should not compound that tragedy with government policies and bureaucratic rules that make it even harder for them to get help.”
He called for the Food and Drug Administration to speed up the approval of so-called abuse-deterrent painkillers, and demanded that the Drug Enforcement Administration restrict the amount of prescription opioids that can be manufactured in the country. He said he would augment the number of patients doctors can treat for opioid addiction, even though that number was recently increased by the Department of Health and Human Services.
His stance presents little difference from that of Hillary Clinton, who in September said she’d expand access to treatment for addiction, promote the use of overdose reversal therapy, and require that health care providers get training on how to deal with substance abuse.