The war on drugs that America has been fighting for so long has been won. But not by whom we'd hoped for. And in its wake, it's taken the lives of far too many. It's a fact that no one can deny, even those hoping to win the democratic nomination. At the recent debate even Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders addressed the issue in a way that let America know we've had it wrong for some time now. What was once thought of as a crime by addicts and junkies is now being referred to as a disease. Sanders said it himself, addiction is a "disease not a criminal activity," and America isn't fighting a war on drugs, it's living with a heroin epidemic.
The high levels of heroin and opioid use in this country became a topic at the debate, as Time points out. Facts like the "rate of heroin-related overdose deaths have quadrupled between 2002 and 2013" were laid on the table. And many put these potential candidates in the hot seat, asking them what they would do, how they would solve the problem. As Time points out, "Sanders said the epidemic calls for a 'radical' change in the approach to addiction in America, saying the health care community needs to 'get its act together' when both prescribing opioids and addressing issues of mental health and addiction." Hillary Clinton admits she's addressed the topic at town halls and says she has a five-point plan to help get a grip on the crisis. And Martin O'Malley even shared his own personal experiences with friends or family who've passed away due to overdoses.
What, exactly, will be done to fight this problem plaguing our country is still to be determined, but at least those vying for president all agree and recognize the current system is broken and needs to be fixed in order to help those struggling with this disease.
As the L.A. Times points out, "The presidential candidates today have placed a far greater emphasis on rehabilitation than punishment. This is a departure from nearly a half-century's approach, starting with President Nixon's "war on drugs" and through the 1990s, when the number of people imprisoned for nonviolent drug offenses skyrocketed." It's this mentality that will hopefully yield a better outcome than government involvement of the past. At town halls across the U.S. far too many are standing up and saying they've lost their loved ones to this problem. Candidates know this is a problem that can no longer be ignored.
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