AUSTIN, Texas — The Obama administration on Friday formally announced the launch of a new war on drugs, pledging that the nation’s drug warriors will have to adapt their tactics to fight a drug epidemic.
The administration’s announcement came after more than a year of negotiations that had been focused on a strategy to end the nations drug war.
But in the process, officials said the U.S. has been losing millions of lives to the opioid epidemic.
It’s been an uphill battle, President Barack Obama said in a televised speech.
It was a hard fight, but we were able to put our efforts into this, to work together with our partners, and it’s a much better-equipped and more effective drug enforcement effort now than we ever were.
In the announcement, the administration also announced new penalties for drug dealers who sell or distribute opioids.
The new law would make it a crime to distribute, transport, sell or otherwise facilitate the distribution of a controlled substance, including opioids.
And it would also make it illegal for a person to intentionally manufacture, distribute or sell a controlled drug.
“We have an epidemic, and we can’t let it fester,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who has made combating the drug epidemic a top priority.
The president, who is pushing to end federal drug prohibition, also pledged that the U,S.
will continue to target drug lords who control heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs.
The announcement comes as the country grapples with an opioid overdose crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people and forced more than one million to seek treatment.
The epidemic has killed tens of thousands of Americans and displaced millions, many of them seniors and the disabled.
Lynch said that a staggering number of people were being forced into treatment because they have been unable to afford it, and said that in a few months, the nation will see a reduction in overdose deaths from opioids.
Obama has repeatedly promised to address the drug crisis, calling it a national health crisis and an economic one.
His administration has pledged to provide billions of dollars in funding to help states address the problem, and he has called on Congress to approve funding to expand treatment options.
But critics have warned that the president has been unable or unwilling to pursue a comprehensive strategy to curb the opioid crisis.
They have also warned that a failure to do so would jeopardize millions of Americans who are now on the brink of homelessness.
The President also called on lawmakers to pass a bill that would grant veterans access to drug treatment.
The Veterans Administration has reported that it has seen an increase in the number of veterans seeking help for addiction.