Bernie Sanders: “Addiction Is A Disease, Not a Criminal Activity”

By Victoria Kim 12/21/15

Senator Sanders is advocating a radical change in the way we approach addiction. 

Bernie Sanders

The Independent senator from Vermont held true to his progressive streak at the Democratic debate on Saturday night, when he said, point blank, “We need to understand that addiction is a disease, not a criminal activity.”

When faced with the issue of the nation’s opioid epidemic, Hillary Clinton said she’s discussed the issue in town halls, and mentioned her five-point plan on how to manage the crisis. Martin O’Malley, a former mayor of Baltimore, talked about his personal experience witnessing close family friends overdose, as well as his experience running Baltimore, nicknamed the “heroin capital” of the US.

Vermont is no exception to the country’s pervasive opioid problem. In 2014, Gov. Peter Shumlin said the state was in the midst of a “full-blown heroin crisis.”

Sen. Sanders said the problem warrants a radical change in the way we approach addiction. “I think we have got to tell the medical profession and doctors who are prescribing opiates, and the pharmaceutical industry that they have got to start getting their act together,” he said to the Manchester, New Hampshire audience. “We cannot have this huge number of opiates out there throughout this country where young people are taking them, getting hooked, and then going to heroin.”

“We need to understand that addiction is a disease, not a criminal activity,” he said to applause. “And that means radically changing the way we deal with mental health and addiction issues.”

The presidential hopeful has made a name for himself for his progressive stance on drug policy and the War on Drugs. On his website, he said treatment is an absolute necessity for people caught up in opioid addiction: “Once you’re into heroin, it’s either jail, or death."

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr