— FARMINGTON, N.H. -- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump alternated between empathy and hardline tactics Monday night as he described his plan to deal with New Hampshire’s growing heroin problem.
Speaking to a capacity crowd of 1,000 at Farmington High School, Trump said his signature proposal, to build a wall across the country’s border with Mexico, would stem the flow of illicit drugs into the state.
“The question I get just about number one when I come up to New Hampshire: the drugs that are pouring in,” Trump said. “They’re coming across the Southern border and we are going to stop it.”
But the normally bombastic Trump showed his empathetic side as he stressed treatment and prevention.
“We are gonna try and help the young people, and the old people, and the middle age people, and everybody that got addicted,” he said to the capacity crowd. “What’s much easier, is if we can just stop it with where they don’t start. And we can talk to people and talk to the kids and say ‘don’t do it.’”
Trump, who says he has long abstained from drugs and alcohol, called addiction “a very tough thing,” saying he has known several people who have fallen prey to substance abuse.
“We are going to help the people that have the problem and try to get them off,” the business mogul continued. “But what really is easy is to convince everybody “don’t take it”.
Trump’s “just say no” approach didn’t sit well with Steffan McNeil from Barnstead, N.H. He’s just 75 days clean, after struggling with a heroin addiction.
“It’s the deepest, darkest part of you,” he told ABC News. “You don’t think growing up that you’ll ever become a heroin addict.”
“I think he understands there’s a problem with the heroin up here,” McNeil said of Trump, whom he still supports. “[But] I don’t think he fully understands.”
McNeil’s fiancée, Paula Nyegard, said she agreed with every word Trump said. “If you’re stupid enough to try it, that’s your whole path,” she said, jerking her thumb at McNeil. “You’ve made your own bed, now lay in it.”
McNeil, who underwent treatment in a suboxone clinic, agreed there. “Heroin addicts need to be dealt with,” he said. “But when it’s so available, and cheap, and crossing the border…you’re trapped in a hell hole, and you can’t stop.”