Trump: 'Drugs Are Becoming Cheaper Than Candy Bars'

By Kelly Burch 02/17/17

President Trump took on drugs and the Affordable Care Act during a controversial press conference on Thursday.

Donald Trump

The United States is becoming a “drug infested nation,” according to President Donald Trump, who claimed during his first solo press conference as president that "drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars.” 

“We are not going to let it happen any longer," Trump said on Thursday. Trump went on to talk about border security and stemming what he sees as an epidemic of illegal immigration, which he seemed to connect to drug use in the country.

“We’ve ordered the Department of Homeland Security and Justice to coordinate on a plan to destroy criminal cartels coming into the United States with drugs,” the president said. “We have begun a nationwide effort to remove criminal aliens, gang members, drug dealers and others who pose a threat to public safety.”

Trump said that his administration has “undertaken the most substantial border security measures in a generation,” including the border wall with Mexico that Trump promised during his campaign. 

In his discussion of drugs, however, Trump did not mention any specific substance. He did not mention the thousands of Americans who become addicted to opioids after receiving a legal prescription for painkillers. Nor did he mention the need for more widespread access to addiction and recovery services. 

He did move on to discussing how he will repeal and replace Obamacare, without offering specifics. “Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It's a disaster,” he said. “I mean, they fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people [that our] representatives are representing.”

Many worry that repealing the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) will affect the ability of people to access drug treatment.

“We had a whole host of initiatives, but one of the main components was to ensure people had adequate access to treatment,” said Michael Botticelli, former head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) under the Obama Administration. “When you look at data about why people are not able to get treatment, not having access to insurance is one of the major reasons people cite.”

Botticelli said that a scientific approach to treatment is critical—and also missing from the Trump administration. 

“Any drug policy that’s going to be effective has got to be based on science and research,” said the former drug czar. “The research that the National Institute of Drug Abuse and National Institutes of Health funded to understand addiction as a brain disorder and not a moral failing made us pivot to a drug policy that was based on scientific principles.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.