Thursday January 17, 2019

US Opioid Crisis : Deaths in 2016 from Drug Overdose ‘Highest in American History’, Says US Attorney General

Sessions said President Donald Trump's campaign pledge to end the opioid crisis remains a priority for his administration

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A bag of 4-fluoroisobutyrylfentanyl, which was seized in a drug arrest, is displayed at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Testing and Research Laboratory in Sterling, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)(VOA)

Washington, September 22, 2017 : U.S. deaths from drug overdose set a record of more than 64,000 in 2016, driven by an intractable opioid crisis, U.S. Attorney General said Thursday, citing preliminary government data.

Provisional data released last month by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) showed that there were 64,070 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2016, up 21 percent from 52,898 the year before.

The NCHS is an arm of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 2016 estimate “would be the highest drug death toll and the fastest increase in that death toll in American history,” Sessions said. “And every day this crisis continues to grow, as more than 5,000 Americans abuse painkillers for the first time.”

Opioids such as heroin and the synthetic drug fentanyl were responsible for most of the fatal overdoses, killing more than 33,000 Americans — quadruple the number from 20 years ago.

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington (VOA)

“More Americans died of drug overdose than died from car crashes or died from AIDS at the height of the AIDS epidemic,” Sessions said. “For Americans under the age of 50, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death.”

Sessions spoke at an event in Charleston, West Virginia, a state with the highest drug overdose rate in the country. In 2015, West Virginia reported more than 41 overdose deaths per 100,000 people, compared with a national average of 16 per 100,000, according to NCHS data.

Sessions said President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to end the opioid crisis remains a priority for his administration.

“I believe that the department’s new resources and new efforts will bring more criminals to justice, and ultimately save lives,” Sessions said. “And I’m convinced this is a winnable war.”

In March, Trump named New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a former presidential candidate, to head the newly formed President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

Last month, the commission urged the administration to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency.

“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks,” the commission said in an interim report.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said that no declaration was necessary to combat the crisis, but White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said Trump was taking the idea “absolutely seriously.” (VOA)

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Donald Trump Threatens ‘National Emergency’ Over Border Wall Funding

The paralysis of the administration affected 10 government agencies, including Transportation and Justice, along with dozens of national parks, which are popular tourist attractions

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Donald Trump. VOA

US President Donald Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency that would allow him to order construction of a border wall with Mexico without Congressional approval of the needed funds.

The President’s remarks came on Friday after he met senior Democrats, who refused his requests for funding, CNN reported. The impasse has seen Trump withhold support for a bill to fully fund the government till he gets money for the border wall.

He said he was prepared for the partial government shutdown — now in its third week — to last years. Around 800,000 federal workers have been without pay since December 22.

“I can do it if I want,” Trump told a press conference when asked about the possibility of starting construction on the wall without a go-ahead from Congress, due to the Democrats’ refusal to approve its financing.

“We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly… I haven’t done it. I may do it. If we can do it through the negotiating process, we’re giving that a shot.”

Trump considered the idea of building a barrier of “artistically designed steel slats” as an alternative to a cement wall, though he gave no details about that possibility.

He said there was an immediate need for $5.6 billion for the wall because “we’re not talking about games, we’re talking about national security. It’s a problem of terrorists.”

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Donald Trump. VOA

Democrats were equally dug in, saying the matter of a border barrier should only be brought up once the government has reopened. “We cannot resolve this until we open up government and we made that very clear to the President,” Democrat House Speaker Pelosi said after the White House meeting.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said: “We told the President we needed the government open. He resisted.”

White House and Congress officials will scheduled to meet later on Saturday in a fresh bid to resolve the standoff.

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Donald Trump said he designated a group of aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, to participate in the weekend discussions, which he described as meant to “determine what we’re going to do about the border”.

The government has been in a partial shutdown since December 22 as negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in Congress remain blocked by Trump’s demand to include in the budget proposal funding for the border wall.

The paralysis of the administration affected 10 government agencies, including Transportation and Justice, along with dozens of national parks, which are popular tourist attractions. (IANS)