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30 Aug, 2017 12:12

2016 saw highest drug death toll in US history, AG Sessions says

2016 saw highest drug death toll in US history, AG Sessions says

US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions has said that current opioid crisis is one of the top “lethal issues” in the country, as last year America faced record drug death toll. The crisis also kills and hurts kids, while some are born dependent on drugs.

Speaking at the conference of National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children on Tuesday, Sessions said that about “60,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses” in 2016. In previous year the death toll was 52,000, according to Sessions, and this year showed “a big increase.”

“That will be the highest drug death toll and the fastest increase in that death toll in American history,” Session stated, adding that “this is not a sustainable trend nor an acceptable America.”

Earlier this month the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reported that deaths of drug overdose reached 19.7 cases for every 100,000 people in the third quarter of last year, compared to 16.7 in the same period the year before.

“This epidemic is filling up our cemeteries, our emergency rooms, and equally tragic — our foster homes,” Sessions said.

One in three children were removed from their families and found themselves in foster care because of a parent’s substance abuse, according to the attorney general.

“Over the last three years, the number of American children in foster care has increased by 8 percent, and there is no doubt that the drug epidemic is a major driving factor in this increase,” Sessions said.

Children also die of overdoses. Sessions cited several examples, including seven children under the age of five in Milwaukee.

Newborns suffer from parents’ drug addiction as they are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which makes them dependent on drugs at birth. Sessions voiced the shocking statistics, saying that “the national NAS rate has gone up five-fold since 2000, and every 25 minutes, a baby is born in America dependent on drugs.”

Apart from “devastating cost paid in destroyed families, broken lives, and death rates” the opioid crisis costs a hefty sum to the US economy, the attorney-general warned. Congress approved nearly $1 billion last year to fund a response to the opioid crisis as part of the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016.

“If you ask the economists, they’ll tell you that prescription opioid addiction costs our economy some $78 billion a year and other illicit drugs cost us $193 billion a year.”

Sessions called for the creation of “a comprehensive antidote to the problem” based on three pillars – prevention, enforcement, and treatment. He emphasized that the first one is the most important, as “treatment often comes too late.”

Last month’s crackdown on “the largest health care fraud” in American history was an example of the last pillar, enforcement. A dozen federal prosecutors were sent to cities ravaged by the opioid epidemic to carry out an investigation.

“DOJ [the Department of Justice] coordinated the efforts of more than 1,000 state and federal law enforcement agents to arrest more than 400 defendants. More than 50 of these defendants were doctors charged with opioid-related crimes.”

READ MORE: DOJ to deploy 'opioid fraud & abuse' units to 12 US cities

He went on saying that “80 percent of heroin addictions in America started with prescription drug addiction,” so that the heroin crisis can be stopped in case the US excludes the abuse of prescription drugs among other measures.

On August 10, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency and said his administration plans to spend a lot of money to struggle the deadly crisis.

“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency,” Trump said at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

READ MORE: Chris Christie-led opioid crisis panel urges Trump to declare ‘emergency’

The statement came on the heels of Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis report, saying that America faces the death toll equal to “September 11th every three weeks” as the epidemic claims the lives of up to 142 Americans every day.