U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued the country should renew its war on drugs after revealing that more people than ever are dying from both illegal and prescription drug abuse.
“Based on preliminary data, nearly 60,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses last year. That will be the highest drug death toll and the fastest increase in the death toll in American history. And every day, more than 5,000 Americans abuse painkillers for the first time,” said Sessions.
Speaking to a convention of Drug Abuse Resistance Education police officers (DARE), the Attorney General also delivered a message to doctors and dentists.
“I believe this country is simply moving too many prescription pills throughout our country,” said Sessions. “Every doctor and hospital and dentist and other group that has the ability to prescribe drugs need to review what they’re doing.”
This is Sessions’ first official visit to North Texas since becoming attorney general this year. Before speaking at the conference, he spent the morning in Dallas where he met with federal prosecutors and religious leaders separately.
But in his budget, President Trump proposed slashing 95 percent of the budget from the Office of National Drug Control and Policy, reducing it by $360 million. The president did add $103 million for Sessions’ effort to fight the epidemic of drug deaths.
He is also asking federal prosecutors to pursue harsher prison sentences. But experts and even some Republicans think that’s the wrong idea.
“I think we proved you can be smart on crime, not soft on crime [but] smart on crime, recognizing the average inmate is going to get out of prison sooner or later. The question is, are they going to be better prepared to lead a productive life or are they just going to re-offend and go back to prison,” asked U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in an interview last month with WFAA-TV’s Inside Texas Politics.
Cornyn has long pushed for reform and said he thinks there is still a chance for it in this Congress.
“Jail is not our goal. That’s not what we want. What we want to see is if drug use goes down,” said Sessions. “Treatment is important, but it often comes too late.”
Sessions left Grapevine and flew to Las Vegas, Nevada where he will make another argument on this issue.