President Donald Trump revealed his plan Monday for combating the country's opioid crisis during a speech in New Hampshire.
During his speech, the President also vowed to introduce non-addictive painkillers, and said USA pharmacists are "close" to creating pills that ease pain without getting people hooked.
Trump has vowed since his election to tackle rising drug prices.
The president formalized what he had long mused about: that if a person in the US can get the death penalty or life in prison for shooting one person, a similar punishment should be given to a drug dealer whose product potentially kills thousands.
The president singled out Lawrence, Massachusetts, as the source of New Hampshire's drug problems multiple times during his speech. His victory there in the 2016 Republican primary helped propel him to the nomination, though he lost the state narrowly in the general election to Hillary Clinton.
On the ground in states like New Hampshire, West Virginia and Kentucky - the front lines of the struggle to control opioid addiction - concern is largely directed at shutting down the supply of illegal narcotics, particularly potent fentanyl and carfentanil, shipped from overseas - and treating the lifelong struggles of millions of addicts.
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The national broadcast touched on several points to fix the issue, including the death penalty to drug dealers who supply drugs that cause a death, attempting to lower the costs of prescription drugs, supply overdose reversing drugs to schools and combating sanctuary cities.
Trump noted her visit last month to Cincinnati Children's Hospital, a facility that is at the forefront on studies of and treatments for neonatal abstinence syndrome. Public health leaders also condemned Trump's call for tougher law enforcement measures as a throwback to the tactics of the 1980s and '90s, which focused on criminalizing drug abuse rather than expanding treatment options.
President Trump praised countries with "zero tolerance for drug dealers" who use the death penalty on drug dealers, and lobbied for the U.S.to use it on March 19.
Others, though, criticized Trump's vision for a public-awareness campaign that would highlight the dangers of drug abuse, and warned that stricter law enforcement penalties would end up hurting those who need help the most.
He made similar comments at a recent White House summit on opioids.
He said: "The question is whether it's one or is it many?" "There's been an bad lot of talk coming from the White House, and now we need action", she said. "This is about winning a very, very tough problem, and if we don't get tough on these dealers, it's not going to happen".
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"That's why my Department of Justice will be seeking so many tougher penalties than we've ever had and we'll be focusing on the penalties that I talked about previously for big pushers, the ones that are killing so many people, and that penalty is going to be the death penalty".
The Republican also spoke about ramping up lawsuits against drug companies, and plowing new money into treatment for those also struggling with addiction.
He said there was little evidence that tougher sentencing reduced the availability of street drugs. The president called them up to the podium, to their complete surprise, in the middle of his remarks. "These were great kids who had jobs and would have benefited their communities." she said.
Trump has declared that fighting the epidemic is a priority for the administration, but critics say the effort has fallen short.
The new plan also would call for prevention, with a goal of reducing the number of opioid prescriptions by one-third over the next three years.
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