Sessions Highlights Victims Of Drug Abuse In Opioid Plagued Montana

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Criminal violations related to meth and heroin are skyrocketing across Montana, claiming adult and youth victims alike, due to the national addiction scourge plaguing America.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke in Montana Friday to law enforcement about the continued growth of the opioid epidemic, which killed more than 64,000 Americans in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Department of Justice, according to Sessions, will cut opioid prescriptions by one-third over the next three years to combat the crisis, in addition to cracking down on street dealers and national traffickers, reported KTVH.

Sessions also highlighted the many victims of drug addiction in Montana, including the youngest and most vulnerable members of society. He mentioned the story of 13-month-old Kenzley Olson, who was beaten to death by a woman on meth in 2016.

“That includes Natalie Dietrich, a student at Montana State, who was given a synthetic opioid at a concert in Bozeman,” Sessions said Friday, according to KTVH. “She was an economics student, she had a promising life ahead of her. But now that’s a future we will never see.”

Opioid overdose made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer. Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, experienced a particularly dramatic increase, more than doubling from 9,580 lives in 2015 to 19,413 lives in 2016.

“There can be no doubt, really, that this is the deadliest drug crisis in our nation’s history,” said Sessions, according to KTVH. “We had a lot of drugs in the 70s and 80s but nothing like the death dealing drugs we have today. Meth violations in this state rose by more than 400 percent between 2010 and 2015. Meanwhile, heroin violations increased 1,500 percent.”

The epidemic is contributing to declining life expectancy in the U.S., according to officials with the CDC. Life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2016 for the first time since an outbreak of influenza in 1962 and 1963.

Addiction experts fear the death toll is likely higher than the official statistics shows, pointing to research suggesting federal data may be undercounting opioid deaths by as much as 20 percent.

Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50.

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