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The Presidential Candidates On Drugs

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Drug overdoses are killing roughly the same number of people each year as HIV/AIDS did at the height of the epidemic—and far more than car accidents or gun violence. The majority of those overdoses are from opioids, a class of drugs including prescription painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl.

January 2017 will see a new administration leading our country. No matter one’s political affiliation or candidate of choice, it is critical that voters consider each candidate’s policies on substance abuse and addiction.

The Obama administration made combatting substance use disorders a priority. The National Drug Control Strategy promoted evidence-based health and safety initiatives to prevent drug use, increase opportunities for early intervention and integrated treatment in health care, and support recovery. In response to the opioid overdose epidemic in our country, President Obama proposed investing $1 billion to expand access to treatment for prescription opioid misuse and heroin use. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies were mandated to cover substance use disorder services as essential health benefits.

The year’s presidential campaign has seen very different approaches to the most important drug policy issues facing our nation: marijuana legalization and law reform, prescription drug distribution and abuse, and trafficking across the Mexican border.

Hillary Clinton supports Obama’s plan and also approaches the substance abuse issue from a public health perspective rather than a criminal justice one. She has announced her Initiative to Combat America’s Deadly Epidemic of Drug and Alcohol Addiction, $10 billion plan to combat the issue from multiple perspectives and provide funds for states to create anti-drug programs tailored to local issues.  She supports Obama’s plan to increase access to overdose antidotes for first responders.  She calls for increased investment into diversion programs and drug courts. She advocates for multiple reforms to curtail the prescribing of opioids. She has a plan to help treat drug and addiction issues with a combination of preventative programs and treatment and specifically references her LifeSkills Training Program, a three year program for middle school students a successful method of preventing substance abuse later in life. She supports criminal justice reform to ensure nonviolent drug offenses do not continue to contribute to mass incarceration problem. She wants to reclassify marijuana to the same level as cocaine or methamphetamine, while using “alternatives to incarceration” for nonviolent marijuana users. But she does want to see medical marijuana expand at the state-level. And she says the federal government should research marijuana to determine its medical use.

In Clinton’s own words…”There are 23 million Americans suffering from addiction. But no one is untouched. We all have family and friends who are affected. We can’t afford to stay on the sidelines any longer — because when families are strong, America is strong. Through improved treatment, prevention, and training, we can end this quiet epidemic once and for all.

Donald Trump has said that his administration will spend money to help get addicts off heroin. He has criticized states that have legalized marijuana, but finds medical marijuana acceptable. He has claimed decades ago that legalizing drugs was the only way to win the war on drugs. He has proposed building a wall on the Mexican border to stop the inflow of drugs to the United States.

In Trump’s own words…”Drugs are pouring in. I’m going to create borders. No drugs are coming in. We’re going to build a wall, you know what I’m talking about. Believe me, I will solve the problem. They’ll stop coming to this country. And the people who are in trouble, the people that are addicted, we’re going to help them. We’re going to try and make them better, and will make them better.”