President Trump briefly mentioned the opioid epidemic in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, suggesting he’d address it through immigration reform and tougher drug enforcement, the Huffington Post reports. “We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge,” Trump said. “My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need, for those who have been so terribly hurt. The struggle will be long and it will be difficult ― but, as Americans always do, in the end, we will succeed, we will prevail.” Trump paused for applause for a guest, Ryan Holets, an Albuquerque, N.M., police officer who, along with this wife, adopted a baby from a pregnant homeless mother struggling with opioid addiction. The girl, Hope, now 3 months old, was in attendance.
Trump’s rhetoric echoed his comments from the earliest days of his presidential campaign in 2015, when he visited places hit hard by the opioid crisis. Despite his tough talk, Trump has taken little action to address the epidemic as president, and it has showed no sign of slowing since he took office. Rob Jarvis, a Democratic candidate running for Congress in Ohio, a state ravaged by opioids, timed how long Trump spent on the crisis in tonight’s speech. “We got about 49 seconds,” he said. Ohio’s overdose death total spiked in 2017, rising by 41 percent between May 2016 and May 2017. Opioid-related overdoses claimed 64,000 lives in the U.S. in 2016, helping to drive the average life expectancy down in back-to-back years for the first time since the 1960s.