It is estimated that over the past seven years, more Americans have died from overdoses than in traffic accidents. Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state, admits that there is one thing she has learned running for president- a heroin and painkiller epidemic is ravaging United States communities, and it's getting worse.
Heroin has replaced opioid prescription analgesics as the narcotic of choice in some US cities and rural areas. A retired doctor came to see Clinton in the spring in Keene, New Hampshire imploring her to do something about heroin. Clinton has promised to bring the problem out of the shadows.
‘While democratic candidate Hillary Clinton admitted a heroin and painkiller epidemic is ravaging US communities, her Republican rivals know it too. Several Republicans have opened up about their personal connections to overdose tragedies.’
AdvertisementIn September, 2015, the Democratic frontrunner proposed a $10 billion plan to help the 23 million Americans who suffer from addiction or substance abuse, only 10% of whom currently get treatment.
Clinton's Republican rivals know it too. Several Republican candidates on the 2016 campaign trail have opened up about their personal connections to overdose tragedies. They have denounced the US health care system deficiencies that allow many who need treatment to slip through the cracks, and they have told their own stories of family tragedies to drive the point home.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cited a close friend from law school, successful, handsome and rich, who ended up addicted to painkillers after suffering a back injury. He said, "Eight years of hell ensued- the man lost his wife, job and home, and was eventually found dead in a motel room next to empty bottles of vodka and Percocet, a prescription painkiller which is a popular target for drug traffickers. Somehow, if it's heroin or cocaine or alcohol, we say, 'They decided it, they're getting what they deserved'."
Fellow candidate Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, also made a personal plea for expanded treatment for addicts. She recalled her stepdaughter's 2009 death after years of struggles with alcohol and prescription pills. Fiorina said, "My husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction. We must invest more in the treatment."
Republican Jeb Bush has also spoken out about his daughter Noelle, who was arrested for prescription fraud in 2002, while he was Florida governor and brother George W. Bush was president. Bush said, "It is the most heart-breaking thing in the world to go through."
Senator Ted Cruz is among the most skilled orators in the race, but he was struggling while describing about how his half-sister succumbed to drug and alcohol addiction. He said, "It's a horrible disease and I've seen it first hand."
With prisons filling up with drug addicts, and little or no treatment options available to them, many argue for alternatives to incarceration. Texas offers such rehabilitation programs, while growing numbers of law enforcement officers nationwide are equipped with naloxone, an overdose reversal drug. Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, also a presidential hopeful, signed an emergency legislation in July, 2015, making the anti-overdose tool available without a prescription, though critics say that fails to address the underlying problems.
The addiction epidemic is particularly devastating in rural and poor areas. President Barack Obama said during an October 2015 visit to West Virginia, the state with the highest rate of overdose deaths said, "Prescription drugs become a gateway to heroin. The health care law forces insurance companies to cover addiction treatment."
Penny Mills, chief executive of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, said, "People often don't even know where to start or where to find quality services. I was encouraged by the bipartisan focus Congress is placing on the issue. I welcome broader public awareness. But, the crisis extends beyond opioids. Far more people die from addiction to other substances, typically alcohol."