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President Trump broke from his vacation on Tuesday to promise an intense effort to take on the nation’s opioid crisis.

Speaking from the Trump National Golf Club in Bridgewater, N.J., Trump vowed to work with law enforcement against “drug dealers that poison our communities” both inside and outside the country ahead of a private briefing with advisers and administration officials on the crisis.  

“We’re being very, very strong on our southern border — and I would say the likes of which this country certainly has never seen that kind of strength,” Trump said, according to a White House pool report of his remarks.


He also said his administration was working with China, where he said “certain forms of man-made” drugs are entering the country.

Trump said prevention was the best way to curb the epidemic, saying the private briefing will include ways to “keep youth from going down this deadly path.”

“The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” Trump said. “If they don’t start, they won’t have a problem. If they do start, it’s awfully tough to get off.

Many advocates have also staunchly supported increased access to treatment and recovery services for those with an opioid addiction. Trump didn’t mention treatment in his brief comments Tuesday.

“We will win,” Trump said in his concluding remarks. “We have no alternative. We have to win for our youth. We have to win for our young people — and, frankly, we have to win for a lot of other people, not necessarily young that are totally addicted and have serious, serious problems.”

Attendees at the briefing include Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price; the acting head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Richard Baum; first lady Melania Trump; and chief of staff John Kelly.

Price said the strategy discussed at the private briefing included ensuring adequate resources for prevention, treatment and recovery.

The nation has been plagued by an uptick in deaths from prescription painkillers and heroin, an epidemic that has hit both urban and rural areas. Since 1999, the number of opioid overdose deaths has quadrupled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Trump’s opioid commission released an interim report last week recommending that the president declare a national emergency to address the opioid crisis.

Price indicated the declaration of a national emergency wasn’t needed, saying the administration already has the tools to combat the epidemic at its disposal.

“We believe at this point that the resources that we need or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis at this point can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency, although all things are on the table for the president,” Price said at a press briefing after the private opioid meeting.

In its interim report, the commission also recommended mandated prescriber education initiatives, creating and funding a federal incentive to increase access to medication-assisted treatment, model legislation for states for an opioid overdose reversal drug and more. More recommendations will come in the fall.

The president’s efforts on the opioid crisis came under criticism on Tuesday from Democrats and liberal groups.

The Democratic National Committee said Trump had done nothing for communities ravaged by the opioid epidemic, while Protect Our Care, a pro-ObamaCare coalition, called the meeting a “sham.”

It criticized the White House’s effort to repeal the healthcare law, saying this “would gut treatment and slash our ability to fight the epidemic.”

This story was updated at 6:00 p.m.

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