First lady encourages children to love themselves more than drugs

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)

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) First lady Melania Trump headlined a town hall forum to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Wednesday.

After speaking to the crowd, the first lady sat down with former Fox News host Eric Bolling to discuss the three pillars of her "Be Best" initiative launched earlier this year. Bolling and his wife lost their son to an opioid overdose in 2017.

The third pillar of the first lady's initiative directly addresses opioid abuse, both supporting families of those affected and helping educate the public on the dangers associated.

"It is very important that we educate them and tell them how dangerous the drugs are and can be," Mrs. Trump said. "It really can mess you up for the rest of your life."

Mrs. Trump emphasized how crucial it is to educate the next generation about the dangers of addiction.

She told the audience that she has regular discussions about this issue with her 12-year-old son Barron.

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.

Mrs. Trump's comments branch off well-being which is the first pillar of her "Be Best" campaign. She says the initiative will help children learn how to cope with the opioid epidemic as they grow older.

The first lady also took questions from the audience, including one about what advice she would give parents of children who may be struggling with opioid addiction.

She encouraged them to speak with their children and know who they are hanging out with from day to day.

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

Azar said it is about getting rid of the stigma associated with opioid addiction stating it is not a "moral failing," but a "medical issue."

Nielsen told the crowd how her agency works to prevent illegal sources of opioids from getting into the United States, noting legislation President Donald Trump recently signed.

She said hundreds of pounds of fentanyl are seized at the border each year, and the Coast Guard recovered tons of opioids. Trained K-9's have also been placed at post offices to make sure nothing is sent through the mail.

"About a pound of fentanyl can cause 150,000 deaths. That's how fatal fentanyl is."

First developed nearly 60 years ago, fentanyl is described as a powerful painkiller without certain side effects including nausea.

According to a recent HHS report, the synthetic opioid is eighty-times more potent than morphine and is approved in several products ranging from managing pain post-surgery to those who deal with severe chronic pain.

As the event wrapped up, Secretary Azar told the crowd not to be afraid to ask for help, as several options are available for those in need.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, you can call The Health and Human Services substance abuse hotline at 1-800-662-HELP for information on both local treatment and recovery services in your area.

Editors note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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