But dealing with the crisis requires empathy and mental health services, say officials
Trump dedicates 49 seconds to opioid epidemic
Donald Trump used a powerful human story to illustrate the dangers of opioid drugs but failed to offer policy solutions to tackle the deadly epidemic.
A crisis costing tens of thousands of lives accounted for about 49 seconds of an address lasting more than an hour and 20 minutes, critics pointed out, following the president's State of the Union address.
Mr Trump promised to get tougher on drug dealers and pushers.
“My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need,” he said. “The struggle will be long and difficult - but, as Americans always do, we will prevail.”
He cited statistics showing that 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, accounting for 174 deaths per day - the subject provided a chance to illustrate the human side of the story.
The president introduced Ryan Holets, a police officer from New Mexico who was confronted with a homeless pregnant woman preparing to inject heroin. She began to weep when he explained the harm this could cause her unborn baby.
“Then, he went home to tell his wife Rebecca,” said Mr Trump. “In an instant, she agreed to adopt. The Holets named their new daughter Hope.”
The Holets and 3-month-old Hope received a standing ovation.
But 49 seconds were not enough for many Americans, following a year in which Mr Trump repeatedly promised to tackle America’s opioid problem but made little progress to do so.
Abdul El Sayed, a public health expert running for governor of Michigan, says that law and order is not the answer to the problem.
“The solution to the opioid epidemic is about empathy, building mental health services, and holding pharmacies accountable,” he said.
Ben Wikler, Washington director of Moveon, an independent political group, wrote on Twitter: “It’s not that Trump didn’t mention the opioid crisis. He did. But his only solutions were a vague pledge to 'get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers' and an anecdote about a police officer adopting the baby of an addicted homeless woman. Lip service. For a national emergency.”