The White House this week announced a plan to stem drug supply and demand fueling the opioid crisis, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions telling law enforcement officers that “this administration will not stand back as addiction shatters our families and devastates our communities.”
Sessions cited the sobering statistics of America’s opioid crisis during his Thursday speech in Tallahassee: 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, “the highest drug death toll and the fastest increase in that death toll in American history.”
“That’s the equivalent of the entire city of Daytona Beach dying from drug overdoses in a single year,” he said. “Preliminary data show another — but what appears to be a smaller — increase for 2017. Amazingly, for Americans under the age of 50, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death.”
Of those 2016 overdose deaths, 42,000 were attributed to opioids.
“We are experiencing death rates the likes of which we have never seen before. By the time I have finished speaking, another American will have died of an opioid overdose,” Sessions said. “…By the time this speech is over, another baby will be born in the United States who is physically dependent on opioids.”
The initiative framework released by the White House aims to “address factors fueling the opioid crisis, including over-prescription, illicit drug supplies, and insufficient access to evidence-based treatment, primary prevention, and recovery support services.”
President Trump’s Opioid Initiative, the White House said, will “reduce drug demand through education, awareness, and preventing over-prescription,” “cut off the flow of illicit drugs across our borders and within communities,” and “save lives now by expanding opportunities for proven treatments for opioid and other drug addictions.”
The administration wants to support research and development “for a vaccine to prevent opioid addiction and non-addictive pain management options” and “cut nationwide opioid prescription fills by one-third within three years.” The plan also advocates border security to cut down drug smuggling and vows to “require advance electronic data for 90 percent of all international mail shipments (with goods) and consignment shipments within three years, in order for the Department of Homeland Security to flag high-risk shipments.”
The Department of Justice Prescription Interdiction and Litigation Task Force will “expand the DOJ Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit’s efforts to prosecute corrupt or criminally negligent doctors, pharmacies, and distributors” and “aggressively deploy appropriate criminal and civil actions to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for any unlawful practices.”
Furthermore, the White House vows to “work to ensure first responders are supplied with naloxone, a lifesaving medication used to reverse overdoses” and “leverage federal funding opportunities to state and local jurisdictions to incentivize and improve nationwide overdose tracking systems that will help resources to be rapidly deployed to hard-hit areas.” The plan would also support more “evidence-based addiction treatment” and screen federal inmates for opioid addiction.
Sessions said his DOJ task force will “consider assisting with ongoing state and local government lawsuits against opioid manufacturers.”
He announced that the DEA “will surge 250 task force officers — and dozens more analysts — to places across America where the opioid crisis is at its worst.”
“These new resources will help us catch and convict more of the drug traffickers and corrupt medical professionals who are fueling the opioid crisis. And when we do, we will pursue the tough sentences they deserve,” Sessions continued. “…The death penalty is available for drug dealers under Florida state law, and at the federal level it is available under certain circumstances of the kingpin statute. The people’s representatives have voted for these laws because they intend for us to use them. Plain and simple, drug traffickers show no respect for human dignity. They put their own greed ahead of the safety and even the lives of others.”
The attorney general called on Congress to strengthen laws as needed when asked to do so in support of the new war on drugs.
“We cannot allow drug dealers to walk our streets thinking that they will get away with their crimes or that they will only get a slap on the wrist. They need to know that this administration will not hesitate to pursue the maximum sentences allowed by law, including the death penalty,” Session said. “Our message should be clear: business as usual is over.”