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Emphasize ways to help addicts

President Donald Trump’s suggestion that some especially evil traffickers in illegal drugs may deserve the death penalty got the headlines this week. But other aspects of his initiative against substance abuse, unveiled Monday in New Hampshire, deserve more attention.

Buried several lines deep in most stories about the president’s announcement were explanations that his plan includes two critical elements. One is better education about the hazards of substance abuse.

The other is expanding opportunities for drug addicts to get the treatment they need to escape the vicious trap in which they have become enmeshed. How vicious? Opioid drugs ranging from prescription pain pills to fentanyl killed more than 42,000 Americans during 2016. Though statistics for last year have not yet been compiled, there is evidence the toll for 2017 may be even higher.

Earlier this month, during a visit to southwestern Pennsylvania, Trump remarked that, “The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness.” We beg to disagree.

The overwhelming majority of those at risk because of substance abuse have no intention of harming others. They are physically addicted to certain drugs. They need help.

Here’s hoping the president’s initiative includes a hefty dose of treatment options — as well as a hard-nosed approach to those who know full well they are selling death in plastic bags.

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