Watch: 'How the Heroin Crisis is Bleeding into the Primary'

By Zachary Siegel 01/27/16

A Huffington Post production details how opiates became a singular issue in the 2016 presidential race.

Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz lost his sister to an overdose. Shutterstock

The short video feature by the Huffington Post entitled, “How the Heroin Crisis is Bleeding into the Primary” opens with Bill Clinton saying that “the number one problem in America today, is opiate and heroin addiction.”

Opiate use was labeled the single biggest issue in the New Hampshire primary, as the state has seen an unrelenting morbidity. According to a New York Times analysis in 2014, 326 people died from opiate poisoning in New Hampshire. The likely culprit is an increased prevalence of fentanyl, a painkiller 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s often sold as heroin.

Chief of Manchester Fire Department Mike Gamache, said nearly 10% of the overdoses they respond to result in a fatality.

The feature cuts from Bill Clinton, campaigning on behalf of his wife Hillary, to none other than Dr. Ben Carson. “Look at the heroin epidemic,” Carson said. “We’re not doing anything to stop it.” From Carson we jump to Senator Bernie Sanders, who wails, “Heroin is a killer drug, doing devastating harm in New Hampshire, Vermont, and all over this country.” Then Ted Cruz recounts his sister who died of a drug overdose.

You get the picture. It’s a bipartisan issue being sternly addressed by religious evangelicals all the way across the political chasm to democratic socialists. It’s a conversation that’s being driven by the people of New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton said she hosted two town halls, the subject of which remained singularly on substance use.

Several people who identified themselves as “voters in recovery” shared their personal struggles. One woman, Electra Delano, discusses her addiction to prescription painkillers. Others discuss beginning with OxyContin and moving to heroin. One man recalls his experience with several overdoses, saying if he used alone and naloxone was not available, he would not be alive today.

One first responder called Narcan (naloxone) a “miracle drug.” It needs to be more widely available and distributed to families and friends of those who use opiates.

A CBS reporter was interviewed and said that the candidates owning the issue are Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, and Chris Christie. She said Fiorina and Bush particularly standout because of their personal experience with family members.

If it weren’t for voters calling on presidential candidates to address the opiate problem, and candidates being willing to discuss their stories, it may have continued to be ignored.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.