Hillary Clinton And Bernie Sanders Agree On Drug Policy At Democratic Debate

By Victoria Kim 01/18/16

Their Republican counterparts spent more time bickering about Ted Cruz's birthplace than talking about the opioid crisis.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

Drug policy and the U.S. opioid epidemic took center stage during the Democratic primary debate Sunday night.

It was one of the areas on which Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders could agree. The candidates agreed on a harm reduction approach to America’s addiction problem, treating it as a health issue rather than a criminal issue.

Clinton cited her $10 billion plan to address the opioid epidemic, which would require all first responders to carry the opioid overdose antidote naloxone and health care providers to receive training in treating substance abuse, among other goals.

“The policing needs to change,” said Clinton during the debate. “Police officers must be equipped with the antidote to a heroin overdose or an opioid overdose, known as Narcan. They should be able to administer it. So should firefighters and others.”

Her plan would tell the states “we will work with you from the federal government putting more money,” said Clinton, in order to “help states have a different approach to dealing with this epidemic.”

Clinton continued, speaking on the importance of de-stigmatizing addiction and drug use, which Sanders called “a disease, not a criminal activity” at the last debate. “We have to move away from treating the use of drugs as a crime and instead, move it to where it belongs, as a health issue,” said Clinton. “And we need to divert more people from the criminal justice system into drug courts, into treatment, and recovery.”

Sanders reinforced Clinton’s stance on the issue, while adding that the role of Big Pharma in allowing the opioid problem in the United States to get to where it is now should not be overlooked. “I agree with everything the Secretary said, but let me just add this, there is a responsibility on the part of the pharmaceutical industry and the drug companies who are producing all of these drugs and not looking at the consequence of it,” said Sanders.

“And second of all, when we talk about addiction being a disease, the Secretary is right, what that means is we need a revolution in this country in terms of mental health treatment. People should be able to get the treatment that they need when they need it, not two months from now, which is why I believe in universal healthcare with mental health [as] a part of that.”

Addiction and the opioid epidemic is without a doubt a major issue in this election cycle. Candidates from both sides have made a major point of speaking on America’s problem with substance abuse.

The fact that the Democratic candidates could find a common ground on an issue so invasive and devastating is promising, especially considering that the Republican candidates barely touched the issue during their last debate.

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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