As presidential candidates begin to build their campaigns and offer promises to voters for their election, we see each candidate’s beliefs and differentiated opinions on every focus topic broached. However, this election is unlike many of the elections we have seen before as there is one thing that they all seem to agree on and that is to do something about the way we as a nation handle drug addiction treatment. For a number of the candidates this is something that hits home, as they have had a loved one who has struggled through the fight of addiction. As for others, they have simply come to realize the importance of working towards a better solution other than incarceration.
Hillary Clinton has proposed a $10 billion plan to address the drug epidemic, part of which entails expanding access to treatment for addicts. Qualifying states would be matched $4-1 in federal funding. Part of these funds will come from her goal to reduce incarceration of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. She also wants to equip all first responders with naloxone, and introduce a new prescription drug monitoring program.
Bernie Sanders believes the pharmaceutical industry and the drug companies are significantly to blame for the opiate epidemic. He’s criticized the war on drugs, and advocates for treatment over incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders. Two years ago, he backed the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would have reduced mandatory minimum sentences for drug sentences, and in the past has supported legislation to bring pharmaceutical drug treatment options into prisons.
Most of Donald Trump’s discussion of the drug epidemic have focused on stopping the Mexico → US drug trade. In one campaign video focusing on the addiction epidemic, he said, “I’m gonna create borders. No drugs are coming in. We’re going to build a wall. You know what I’m talking about. You have confidence in me. Believe me, I will solve the problem. … They’ll stop coming to our country. And the people that are in trouble, the people that are addicted, we’re going to work with them and try and make them better, and we will make them better.”
Ted Cruz has brought a personal perspective to addiction, openly discussing and sharing his half-sister’s struggles with (and eventual death from) her addiction. He also believes in building a wall between the US and Mexico to try and limit the drug trade, and while he supports putting more federal dollars into drug prevention programs, but believes the biggest strides will come from citizens and politicians at the local level.
Marco Rubio wants to reduce the stigma of addiction, and have it treated as more of a medical condition. He co-sponsored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which would strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs, expand disposal sites for unwanted medications, increase the naloxone availability for first responders, increase treatment options for the incarcerated, and expand prevention/education efforts.
As governor of Ohio, John Kasich has supported legislation to make naloxone available without a prescription, as well as supporting treatment for low level, nonviolent drug offenders. He formed an Opiate Action Team to tackle the epidemic in Ohio, but with limited effect.
We have many hopes for our upcoming election for what we want from whomever takes office. But there is one thing we can all agree on- the approach we take towards helping addicts needs to change. No matter who ends up in office it seems as though we may have a good shot at improving at least some major aspects that intertwine with addiction.