President Trump on Tuesday said one of the best ways to prevent addictions to drugs such as heroin and prescription painkillers is to keep young people from taking them in the first place.
"If they don't start, they won't have a problem," he said in remarks to the media, according to pool reports. "If they do start, it's awfully tough to get off. So if we can keep them from going on and maybe by talking to youth and telling them, 'No good, really bad for you in every way.' But if they don't start, it will never be a problem."
Overdoses from opioids, including legal drugs such as Oxycontin and illegal drugs such as heroin, killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People often begin addictions to prescription painkillers after a prescription from a doctor, and turn to street counterparts such as heroin as a more-available, less-expensive alternative. CDC mortality data show that deaths from illegal opioids are highest among people between the ages of 25 and 34, and surveys from the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that opioid use has declined among teens.
Later in his statement, Trump elaborated by saying that not only young people are struggling under the epidemic and that he is working with a team of experts to work on solutions.
"Nobody is safe from this epidemic that threatens all — young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural communities. Everybody is threatened. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States," he said.
Trump has taken several actions to combat the issue, including appointing a commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration who asked a drugmaker to remove its opioid Opana ER from the market, and his administration has encouraged the National Institutes of Health to explore addiction treatments and alternatives to narcotic painkillers.
Trump is expected to deliver a briefing from his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J., Tuesday with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and alongside first lady Melania Trump.
Trump made his statement ahead of a meeting with experts, highlighting the work that law enforcement was doing to keep drugs from flowing into communities. Most drugs are coming from Mexico, and fentanyl, a more potent synthetic opioid, is coming through Mexico from China and into the U.S.
"We're also working with law enforcement officers to protect innocent citizens from drug dealers that poison our communities — strong law enforcement is absolutely vital to having a drug-free society," Trump said. "I have had the opportunity to hear from many on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, and I'm confident that by working with our healthcare and law enforcement experts we will fight this deadly epidemic and the United States will win. We're also very, very tough on the southern border where much of this comes in, and we're talking to China, where certain forms of man-made drug come in and it is bad. We are speaking to other countries, and we're getting cooperation. But we're being very, very strong on our southern border — and I would say the likes of which this country certainly has never seen that kind of strength."
Last week the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released a list of recommendations, which included urging Trump to declare the crisis a federal state of emergency. "Today, the president will be giving an update on the opioid crisis, an issue that he brought to the forefront of the campaign," a White House official told the Washington Examiner. "For that reason, he created the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis to ensure our country's response to this epidemic is comprehensive and effective. The administration is still completing the review process of the recently submitted interim report."
The commission, created in March, is led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Governors in Florida, Arizona, and Maryland have declared states of emergency, granting those governments access to millions of dollars.