Washington, Jan. 18 – Drug addiction took a spotlight once again at last night’s Democratic presidential 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,” Secretary Hillary Clinton said in response to a question on the deadly heroin epidemic, around the country.
Clinton’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, said he agreed with Clinton that drug addiction is a disease.
“What that means is we need a revolution in this country in terms of mental health treatment,” Sanders said, before pivoting to his proposed single-payer healthcare plan. “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 a part of that.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the overall costs of substance abuse in the United States exceed an estimated $600 billion per year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 2002 to 2013.
The American Disabilities Act protects employees who are in or have completed rehab for addiction and abuse, according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Clinton also called for criminal justice reform in terms for drug offenders.
“We need to divert more people from the criminal justice system into drug courts, into treatment, and recovery,” she said.
In September, Clinton laid out a $10 billion plan to treat drug addiction to widen access to treatment and recovery programs. She often has called for increased funding for substance abuse programs and criminal justice reform.
This is the second time the Democratic candidates for president discussed this issue on a national stage, the first being last month’s Democratic debate. In January, several of the Republican candidates spoke out about this issue, often turning to personal stories, during the Southern New Hampshire University Addiction Forum.
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