The Trump administration is preparing to roll out its plan to address the opioid crisis, which will include imposing the death penalty for some drug dealers.
Politico reported President Donald Trump’s plan, which has been circulating through various federal agencies, would create a new Justice Department task force to aggressively monitor internet sales of opioid drugs.
Additionally, it would address how the federal government pays for opioid prescriptions to limit access to the powerful painkillers. The target is to bring down the number of opioid prescriptions by one-third within three years.
Further, the plan would facilitate Medicaid paying for treatment, making it easier for those addicted to the drugs to receive inpatient care.
According to the National Institute of Health, there were 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016, and most of them were related to opioids.
In a statement released earlier this month, the White House noted that same year over 20 million Americans, or about 1 in 13 people age 12 and older, had a substance use disorder.
“Opioids are a class of drugs that includes everything from heroin to legal prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine,” the statement read. “The increase in deaths involving opioids is so large that it now affects average U.S. life expectancy.”
At a White House summit on opioid abuse on Mar. 1, Trump said the death penalty may be the best way of handling some drug dealers.
“We have pushers and drugs dealers, they are killing hundreds and hundreds of people,” Trump said. “If you shoot one person, they give you life, they give you the death penalty. These people can kill 2,000, 3,000 people and nothing happens to them.”
He added that countries that impose the death penalty for drug dealers have less of a drug problem.
“Some countries have a very, very tough penalty — the ultimate penalty — and by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do,” Trump stated.
Trump has received some resistance even from Republicans on Capitol Hill over the idea of imposing the death penalty.
“I would have to strongly evaluate and look at any proposal like that,” Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska told Politico. “I don’t know if the president was serious or just said it off the cuff. … It’s a big issue when you decide to bring a capital case or pass a law that allows for capital punishment.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, which has been hard hit by the opioid epidemic, said she doesn’t support the death penalty for drug cases.
“I mean, I get the message he’s delivering: We’ve got to treat it seriously,” she said. “I don’t see that that’s going to solve the problem.”
Last fall, Trump spoke passionately about the need to address the opioid crisis, officially designating it a “national health emergency.”
The president talked about his older brother’s fight with addiction, which led to his untimely death in his early 40s.
“I had a brother, Fred — great guy, best-looking guy, best personality — much better than mine,” Trump quipped in a speech from the White House, drawing laughter from the audience.
“But he had a problem,” the president continued. “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, but he would constantly tell me, don’t drink. He’d also add, don’t smoke. But he would say it over and over and over again.”
Trump, 71, said to this day he has never had a drink and never smoked. “And I have no longing for it. I have no interest in it,” he related.
Trump observed that his brother, who was eight years older, had a “very, very tough life because of alcohol … But I learned because of Fred. I learned.”
“It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction,” the president proclaimed. “We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it.”
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