It is one of the largest problems the United States is facing right now. It is taking the lives of thousands of people each year and is now the leading cause of accidental death in our country. Drug abuse has ballooned over the past decade due to over-prescribing of opiate prescription painkillers. 90% of all overdose deaths from drugs involved an opiate. Those numbers are staggering and have gained the attention of presidential candidates Governor Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
When it grabs the attention of presidential hopefuls and becomes a platform for their elections, you know that the topic has some substance. This needs to be taken very seriously and the approach the United States has been taking on drugs needs to change. It is no surprise to anyone that the “War On Drugs” has been an epic failure. Our prisons are overflowing and our overdose numbers have never been higher. New approaches and techniques need to be put into action.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been a supporter of treatment over incarceration dating back to when he was an active prosecutor. It was part of his “pro-life for the whole life.” In response to a surge in opioid deaths in New Jersey, Christie signed a bill in April to establish a statewide task force. He has expanded drug courts and broadened access to Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths nationwide involving heroin increased from 3,041 in 2008 to 8,260 in 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available. In 2013, 16,235 people died from overdosing on prescription opiates; in 2008, 14,800 people died. Drug overdoses were the nation’s leading cause of injury death in 2013, according to the CDC. Among people 25 to 64, overdoses caused more deaths than traffic accidents.
Clinton herself has spoken about addiction numerous times in New Hampshire and brought it up at a campaign event in Iowa. The former U.S. secretary of state said she had heard all over Iowa about two issues: mental illness and drugs.
“The drug epidemic, meth, pills in Iowa — and then I got to New Hampshire and at my very first coffee shop meeting I heard about the heroin epidemic in New Hampshire,” Clinton said in Mason City, Iowa, last month. “This is tearing families apart, but it is below the surface. People aren’t talking about it, because it’s something that is hard to deal with.”