Photo Courtesy of DOJ
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
By Michael V. Cusenza
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday visited John F. Kennedy International Airport to deliver remarks regarding the Trump administration’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
Last week, President Donald Trump officially declared the critical situation a Nationwide Public Health Emergency.
“The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” the Queens native said on Thursday. “If they don’t start, they won’t have a problem.”
Speaking on Friday at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Conference Room inside Building 14, Sessions did not mince words, calling the epidemic of heroin and prescription pain medication abuse “the deadliest drug crisis in American history.”
“Based on preliminary data, approximately 64,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses last year. That would be the highest drug death toll and the fastest increase in that death toll in American history. And that would mean that more Americans died of drug overdoses last year than died from AIDS at the height of the AIDS epidemic or car crashes,” Sessions said. “For Americans under the age of 50, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death.”
The attorney general later noted that the City Police Department in 2016 investigated nearly 1,400 overdose deaths—an increase of 46 percent in just one year.
Sessions pointed to opioids as the “primary driver” of the emergency.
“To confront a crisis on this scale, we must take a comprehensive approach to the problem,” he said. “We must improve our prevention, enforcement, and treatment. If we fail to act on any one of these principles, then we won’t fix the problem—we’ll just change it. And that would have devastating consequences.”
Sessions said that, among other directives, he has assigned experienced prosecutors in opioid “hot-spots” to focus solely on investigating and prosecuting opioid-related healthcare fraud in places where they are especially needed.
He also identified fentanyl, pain medication that is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin, as “the number one killer drug in America.”
“With synthetic drugs flooding our streets, drugs are now more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous than ever. But that’s also why our drug law enforcement efforts are more important than ever,” Sessions said. “In confronting the worst drug crisis in our history, we need to use every lawful tool we have. But if we do, there is hope. I agree with the President, I’m convinced this is a winnable war. And the good work I’ve seen today make me even more confident in that.”