10 August 2017

Trump declares US opioid pain drugs national emergency

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Opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999, the White House commission found

The crisis over the US addiction to painkillers – opioids – is a national emergency, says President Donald Trump.

“It’s an emergency, it’s a national emergency. We are going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” he said.

The number of opioid deaths has quadrupled in 20 years, and a third of Americans were prescribed them in 2015.

Declaring a national emergency means the issue can get prioritised funding and resources from Washington.

“There’s never been what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years,” said President Trump.

Mr Trump spoke to reporters on Thursday from his golf resort in New Jersey, where he has been holding a 17-day “working vacation”.

The declaration came in response to a reporter’s question, and was not announced through an official White House press release or statement.

On Tuesday, Mr Trump took a moment during a meeting to discuss the opioid crisis at his golf resort, to threaten North Korea with “fire and fury” if the nation continued to engage in provocative nuclear behaviour.

Mr Trump had previously been urged by the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis to declare the emergency.

The commission had said this would “awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will”.

But on Tuesday, Health Secretary Tom Price suggested that Mr Trump already had the necessary authority to tackle the crisis.

“We believe at this point that the resources that we need or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis at this point can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency,” he said.

Mr Trump campaigned partly on a promise to tackle the drug epidemic which has claimed lives in urban, suburban and rural America.

Last week transcripts revealed that Mr Trump referred to the state of New Hampshire, where he campaigned often, as drug-infested.

“I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den,” Mr Trump told the president of Mexico, according to a leaked transcript of the January phone call.

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