Trump declares US opioid epidemic a national public health emergency

Almost 100 people die every day in America from prescription painkiller overdoses

Trump declares US opioid epidemic a national public health emergency

US President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the White House to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, 2610-2017. Image: Evan Vucci/AP/Press Association Images

US President Donald Trump has declared the opioid epidemic in the United States a national public health emergency, calling it "the worst drug crisis in American history."

He said he will direct all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis, which he described as a "worldwide problem."

The US uses more opioid pills per person than any other country in the world.

"We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic - we can do it," he said at a speech at the White House.

He said the "crisis of drug use, addiction and overdose deaths, in many years" requires "all of our effort and will require us to confront the crisis in all of its very real complexity."

Overdose deaths

The country's Centre for Disease Control says almost 100 people die every day in America from overdoses from prescription painkillers.

Figures also show deaths from the drugs have quadrupled since 1999.

President Trump said that last year at least 64,000 Americans died from overdoses - the leading cause of unintentional deaths in the US "by far."

More people die from drugs than from "gun homicides and motor vehicles combined", he added.

Human tragedy

Labelling the epidemic a “national shame” and a “human tragedy,” he insisted the issue is an urgent priority for his administration:

“The federal government is aggressively fighting the opioid epidemic on all fronts,” he said.

“We are working with doctors and medical professional to implement best practices for safe opioid prescribing.

"No part of our society, not young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural has been spared this plague of drug addiction."

Resources

The announcement will allow the government to redirect resources, but it won't bring new funds to the fight - causing Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi to call his declaration "words without money."

To end the epidemic, Mr Trump said there would need to be a mobilisation of government, local communities and private organisations.

The US government will be working with doctors and medical professionals to implement best practices for "safe opioid prescribing" and "requiring federally employed prescribers" to receive special training.

"I want the American people to know the federal government is aggressively fighting the opioid epidemic on all fronts," he said.

Fentanyl

He said the government would work towards developing new non-addictive painkillers – while cracking down on the use of the synthetic opioid Fentanyl.

Fentanyl – which can kill users in seconds – is increasingly mixed with heroin in the US.

President Trump’s declaration is expected to see an increase in funding to fight the epidemic – however with the death toll climbing all the time, there is a long road ahead for those on the front-lines of the crisis.

With reporting from IRN ...