Democratic lawmakers wore purple ribbons at Tuesday's State of the Union in an effort to raise awareness about America's opioid epidemic, but in the end President Donald Trump spent less than a minute talking about what is now the deadliest drug overdose crisis in the country's history, which claims 174 deaths per day, seven per hour.
In 2016, 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, the president pointed out in his address to the nation. At least two-thirds of these were linked to opioids, including heroin and the synthetic opioid fentanyl. (Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin and prescription pain relievers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl.)
Preliminary figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest the stats for 2017 were worse.
"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."
The president also praised a New Mexico police officer for stopping a pregnant homeless woman from injecting heroin and then adopting her baby.
The 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2016, included nearly $1 billion for opioid prevention and treatment programs for all 50 states. Half of the money was released last year, and the rest will be administered this year.
In October, Trump declared the opioid crisis a "public health emergency" but stopped short of asking Congress for additional emergency funding. But many were hopeful that last night Trump would be more forthcoming on the administration's efforts to combat the U.S. opioid epidemic.