First lady: Opioids "taken hold of our country"

First lady Melania Trump speaks during a town hall meeting on opioid addiction at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — First lady Melania Trump opened up a bit Wednesday about life in the Trump White House, where 12-year-old Barron is more interested in sports than social media, she has no inclination to make casseroles and she thinks the red topiary trees work just fine as part of her holiday decor.

Mrs. Trump spoke at a forum at Liberty University to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic, one pillar of her “Be Best” initiative. It was a rare appearance in which she took impromptu questions from an audience.

The first lady said she’s talked with Barron about the dangers of opioids and other drugs.

“I teach him what is right, what is wrong,” Mrs. Trump said. “I will always tell him that drugs — they could be very dangerous and they could mess up your mind and body, and to love yourself more than you love drugs.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen joined Mrs. Trump at the event.

Azar said opioid addiction is not a “moral failing,” but a “medical issue.” He said fewer of the drugs are being prescribed, and that since January 2017, legal opioid prescription use is down more than 23 percent.

Nielson said her agency works to prevent illicit sources of opioids from getting into the United States. She noted legislation that President Donald Trump recently signed to help tackle the opioid crisis, the deadliest epidemic of overdoses in the country’s history.

The legislation will add treatment options and get the U.S. Postal Service to screen overseas packages for a synthetic form of opioids called fentanyl that are being shipped largely from China.

“Much of the fentanyl is still coming from China through the mail,” Nielsen said. “About a pound of fentanyl can cause 150,000 deaths. That’s how fatal fentanyl is.”

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