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How Does Each Presidential Candidate Tackle the Topic of Addiction?

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year and it only happens every four years. That’s right, it’s election season! Actually, it’s been election season for over a year now. You’re probably sick and tired of seeing all the ads on TV and social media being inundated with the latest ridiculous comment Trump made. 

Election seasons in the U.S. are absurdly long. There’s enough time for us to form an opinion about each candidate and change it 10 times. My personal opinion is that there are a lot of issues you should be concerned with when it comes to choosing the political candidate that represents your morals. One of those for me is how the presidential candidates will tackle addiction and in general, how they feel about recovery. This is an important issue and should be for everyone because addiction affects the economy and touches everyone in some way.

Hillary Clinton

The Democratic candidate for president has talked about addiction and recovery extensively. On her website she puts forth the very important statistic that many of us have heard: there are 23 million Americans living with a substance use disorder, and only one in every 10 receive treatment. She acknowledges that addiction cannot be treated by incarceration or by continually arresting drug offenders and dealers, and assuming the problem will fix itself. Hillary has proposed a multifaceted plan that aims to prevent and treat addiction, support people in recovery, and address the opioid epidemic and overdoses we are currently experiencing in this country. Her $10 billion plan would provide funding to states to create prevention programs, provide the life-saving drug Naloxone to all first responders, put more criteria and restrictions on those who prescribe opioids, expand inpatient and outpatient treatment services and providers, and implement criminal justice reform. Although Secretary Clinton and her family haven’t been personally touched by addiction, she has traveled around the U.S. and listened to countless stories like mine. In fact, she even curated a few of those stories in an article on Medium, to communicate why she has the motivation to confront the addiction epidemic and support those in recovery.

Donald Trump

The Republican candidate for president presents a very stark contrast to Secretary Clinton. As I visited Trump’s website to gather information for his views on addiction and recovery and how he plans on tackling the opioid epidemic, I couldn’t find any. Addiction is not mentioned anywhere on his website, not under the “issues” tab or the healthcare issue, nor is recovery. In the media and at events he has referred to the heroin problem as “an unbelievable problem,” and said, “You know where that stuff comes from,” a reference to his belief that immigrants from Mexico bring drugs across the border. In fact, Trump has vocalized a plan to combat heroin in the U.S. by building a physical wall on the border with Mexico, despite experts saying the heroin crisis has been fueled by the demand for opioids and the over-prescription of those drugs by doctors. In states hit hard by the opioid epidemic like New Hampshire and Ohio, Trump has only said he will, “stop the inflow of opioids to the U.S.” but did not give any further details. He has made no announcements on how to support people in recovery or get addiction treatment for the millions of Americans who need it.

Interestingly enough, the GOP party platform approved at this year’s national convention in July, stated that, “natural marriage prevents kids from being drug addicted or otherwise damaged.” Trump’s brother Fred died from complications of alcoholism, and Trump himself does not drink.

Gary Johnson

Governor Johnson, the Libertarian party candidate for president, has built his campaign on the legalization of marijuana. He wants to remove cannabis from Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act and allow the states to choose whether they would like to legalize marijuana or not. On his website under the issues’ “War on Drugs” tab is a few short paragraphs about marijuana legalization and his belief that other recreational drugs that are currently illegal should stay that way. It also says Johnson believes, “drug rehabilitation and harm-reduction programs result in a more productive society than incarceration and arrests.” Additionally, he explicitly states that we should treat ‘drug abuse as a health issue, not a crime.’ He goes on to say that we currently spend too much money on the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders, instead of providing them with tools to become healthy and productive members of society. Although these beliefs and opinions are hopefully, I didn’t find any more information on a specific action plan or anything directly addressing the opioid epidemic from the Johnson/Weld ticket.

Jill Stein

Dr. Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate for president and has a long list of issues on her website. She supports health care as a right, meaning she desires a single-payer public health program to provide everyone with quality health care including mental health services. Similar to Johnson, Stein voices her disgust for the War on Drugs and mass incarceration. She says she supports harm reduction and the legalization of marijuana and hemp. She believes we should “treat substance abuse as a health problem, not a criminal offense.” Dr. Stein goes on to mention the release of nonviolent drug offenders from prison and providing them with support before and after release. Other than these points, I did not see any quotes or plans from her on the current heroin epidemic or prescription pill issues. She didn’t specifically mention how she would support people in recovery and lower the rates of addiction.

There are 30 days left in this election season. Thirty days left to choose one of the four candidates above. If you’re personally affected by addiction and recovery, I suggest you read through these options carefully and make an educated decision.

I hope you’ll choose someone who views those of us with a substance use disorder as human beings; human beings who deserve to recover and live lives beyond our wildest dreams.