President Donald Trump officially proposed imposing the death penalty for drug traffickers on Monday.
"If we don't get tough on the drug dealers, we are wasting our time," Trump said. "And that toughness includes the death penalty," Trump said.
Trump's plan for broadening the federal government's involvement to intervene on the opioid epidemic includes stiffer penalties for high-intensity drug traffickers, more funding for drug treatment programs and a large-scale ad campaign about addiction.
"It's the least expensive thing we can do-- where you scare them into ending up like the people in the commercials," Trump said.
As Director of The Choices Program and Prevention Research at The Council on Recovery, Dr. Crystal Collier specializes in treating addiction in adolescents and young adults.
She said criminalizing drug dealers or producing national PSA's don't solve the issue.
"It fills up our prisons and it creates bigger and badder drug dealers. Working on the supply is usually futile and the War on Drugs has taught us that lesson," Collier said.
Instead, to address the growing epidemic, Collier said prevention is key.
"It really starts with educating. Educating our doctors, educating our parents of what healthy opioid medication use really is and what it's not," Collier said.
While Trump did acknowledge the US may not be ready for such harsh punishments for drug dealers, the dire need for change is undeniable.
Since 1999, the number of American overdose deaths involving opioids has quadrupled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.