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'We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic,' Trump said


Updated October 26, 2017 02:49 PM EDT

President Trump on Thursday said that "no part of our society has been spared" by America's opioid epidemic as he declared it a public health emergency.

"No part of our society, young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural, has been spared the plague of drug addiction and this horrible, horrible situation that has taken place," he said at the White House.

"Nobody has seen anything like what's going on now," Trump continued. "As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue."

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"It is time to liberate our communities from the scourge of drug addiction. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it."

Trump painted a bleak picture of the devastation rampant opioid abuse has caused in the U.S., arguing it is a pervasive and difficult problem.

"Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States by far," he said. "These overdoses are driven by a massive increase in addiction to prescription painkillers, heroin and other opioids."

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"The United States is by far the largest consumer of these drugs, using more opioid pills per person than any other country in the world," Trump added.

"I want the American people to know that the federal government is aggressively fighting the opioid epidemic on all fronts. It will require the resolve of our entire nation."

Trump also cast addiction struggles in personal terms, detailing his brother Fred Trump Jr.'s difficulties with alcohol earlier in his life.

"He had a very tough life because of alcohol," he said. "He was a strong guy, but it was a tough, tough thing he was going through."

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"He had a problem," Trump added. "To this day I've never had a drink. I have no longing for it. I have no desire for it."

Trump additionally linked the drug trade to cartels in Latin American who traffic narcotics in America and overseas.

"For too long, dangerous criminal cartels have been allowed to infiltrate and spread throughout our nation," he said. "An astounding 90 percent of the heroin comes from south of the border where we will be building a wall which will greatly help with this problem."

"We're taking the fight to criminals directly in places where they produce this poison," Trump added. "There is nothing desirable about drugs. They're bad."

Trump: We can be the generation that ends the opioid crisis

Updated October 26, 2017 02:21 PM EDT

President Trump speaks on the opioid crisis.

On Thursday, President Trump is expected officially declare a public health emergency over the opioid crisis, more than two months after he suggested he would declare a national emergency over the drug epidemic.

Trump will direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to declare a 90-day public health emergency through the Public Health Service Act and will direct other agencies to devote more efforts and resources to curbing the drug crisis, which has claimed tens of millions of American lives.

The public health emergency declaration would free up some grant money to be directed toward efforts to combat opioid abuse, and it would ease certain laws and regulations to help address the issue.

However, the declaration falls short of a national emergency, which would have prompted the rapid appropriation of federal funding to address the drug crisis.

Senior administration officials said Trump's order will focus on freeing up existing funding and pointing more resources toward drug abuse prevention programs.

The memorandum, which Trump is expected to sign at the White House, will allow states to shift federal funding allocated fro HIV programs to deal with opioid addiction. It will allow HHS to to beef up its staff to better manage the crisis and it will make National Dislocated Worker Grants available to people struggling with opioid addictions. Those funds are typically reserved for people who have been displaced by natural disasters.

However, in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, funding for public health emergencies has been depleted and Congress has yet to replenish the money. USA Today reported there's only about $57,000 remaining in the Public Health Emergency Fund.

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