Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning, everyone.
It’s an honor for me to be here today to help kick off this Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness in New Hampshire. I want you to know that what is happening here today is not an ordinary event. That’s why I cancelled my planned schedule to be with you. I wanted to see and to participate in this Youth Summit because this is historic. It must be one of the largest such gatherings in history. Too many people – too many young people – are dying and others are placing themselves in the powerful grip of addiction.
In the 1980s, I was a federal prosecutor. It was a terrible time for drugs. Illegal drug use had surged. Cities were filled with heroin addicts. Families broke up, young people dropped out of schools and universities. Crime and violence threatened public safety. The purity of the street heroin and cocaine – and marijuana – was much lower than it is today. But the impact was still enormous.
In towns all across New Hampshire – from here in Manchester all the way up to the border with Canada – you’ll find families whose lives have been changed forever because of drug and opioid abuse. Many of you probably know someone who this crisis has affected.
You’re going to hear from one of those families later this morning, and I hope you’ll listen carefully to their story. People need to hear the truth. No filter. No censors. Just the straight facts, from people who have lived with the hard consequences of opioid abuse. Many people get started on opioids or other drugs because they don’t really understand what they’re getting themselves into. A lot of people still don’t realize how addictive prescription drugs can be.
These drugs are powerful, and opioid addiction can take hold quickly. Too many teens and adults have overdosed. And the road ahead for people fighting their addictions is tough.
There are three main ways to fight back against this problem: Prevention, criminal enforcement and treatment. Criminal enforcement is essential to stopping the transnational criminal organizations which ship drugs into our country, and to stop the thugs and gangs who use violence and extortion to move their product.
The President has issued an Executive Order to the Department of Justice to dismantle these organizations and gangs. We are going to get rid of them. Of that you can be sure.
Treatment is also important, but treatment often comes too late. Individuals have already lost their jobs and flunked their tests. Then the struggle to defeat addiction can be a long process – and it can fail. Experts will tell you that recovery is not certain. For many, addiction can be a death sentence.
I have seen families spend all their savings and retirement money on treatment programs for their children – just to see these programs sometimes fail. Having 120 people in our country die every day from drug overdoses cannot continue.
The most effective solution in the 1980s and early ‘90s – when, for example, we saw a significant decline in teen drug use – was the Prevention Campaign. People began to stop using drugs. Drug users were not cool. Crime fell dramatically, and addiction fell too.
We can do this again. We have proven that education and telling people the terrible truth about drugs and addiction will result in better choices. Drug use will fall. Lives will be saved. That’s what has excited me about your leadership and your participation at this Youth Summit.
I want to express my appreciation to your governor, Chris Sununu, and to [Manchester] Mayor Ted Gatsas for having me here in Manchester today. I also want to thank Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jon DeLena of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for inviting me here and for bringing the DEA’s great 360 Program to Manchester. And I’d like to thank Jim Wahlberg and the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation for their support. They are really making a huge difference. You’re going to see what a great day they’ve got planned for you.
Only a Prevention Movement can change the tide. I believe what you are doing today will start that movement. I could not be more proud and excited.
Let’s make this Youth Summit the start for changing America.