As the 2016 presidential race to the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries picks up speed, one issue that candidates across the board are starting to pay more attention to is the rising rate of heroin and prescription painkiller abuse and drug addiction in the United States. The Northeast is gripped with an opioid and heroin crisis and the problem which was formerly rarely recognized is finally starting to get the attention it deserves from major political players.
Perhaps surprisingly for some, most candidates are placing a greater emphasis on solutions on rehabilitation rather than incarceration, a stark change from Nixon’s controversial ‘war on drugs’ for the past half century. State governments have been focusing on rehab as a primary solution for several years, but it is only in this recent race that the issue is really coming to the forefront of candidate’s stump speeches—on both party sides. For several of the Republican candidates, addiction is a personal issue for their families and the two leading Democratic candidates have also released strong statements calling for reform of drug policies.
What does Each Political Candidate Believe about Drug Addiction?
Jeb Bush- His only daughter, Noelle, has served time in jail for possession of crack cocaine and has been battling a dependency to prescription drug abuse for years. He has spoken publicly about her struggle and the effect it has had on the Bush family.
Ted Cruz- The senator’s half-sister, Miriam died in 2011 after an overdose and years of struggle with drugs. Cruz wrote in his memoir that his sister’s death was ‘heartbreaking’ and that “she spent much of her life trapped by the demons of addiction and anger.”
Carly Fiorina- The daughter of the former chief of Hewlett-Packard, Lori Ann Fiorina, died due to an overdose in 2009 after a many year struggle with bulimia and drug addiction. She had been in rehab three times. In the Republican debate, Fiorina stated that “We need to tell young people the truth. Drug addiction is an epidemic, and it is taking too many of our young people.”
Chris Christie: Our own New Jersey governor has also been outspoken about a close friends’ struggle with painkiller abuse, his role in attempting to stage an intervention and the man’s eventual death to overdose during Christie’s term as governor. He’s stated that “we need to start treating people in this country, not jailing them. We need to give them the tools they need to recover because every life is precious.”
Hillary Clinton: The democratic candidate has proposed a $10 billion proposal to use federal money to boost state’s drug addiction treatment programs and additionally reroute the focus of law enforcement on rehabilitation rather than incarceration. She hosted a drug forum in the early primary state of New Hampshire.
Bernie Sanders: At a recent Democratic debate, the Vermont senator proclaimed that drug addiction was a “disease not a criminal activity” after a question about the heroin epidemic, and cited sober statistics on the high rate of heroin usage in his own state.
It’s surprising but positive to see so many of our major political leaders agreeing on at least this one issue. If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin use or other compulsive substance abuse, do contact us at the Discovery Institute for a free consultation at 800-714-2175 to learn how we can help.