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2016: a New Year and a New War

Will 2016 kick off the start of a new type of War on Drugs? Candidates in the upcoming elections seem to think so, with none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton leading the charge in an effort to curb what many representatives—and, indeed, organizations around the world—are calling an “epidemic.” They might not be far off: a recent study published in the pages of the British Medical Journal bemoans the 500,000+ deaths in the Western World due to psychiatric drugs; the CDC reports increases in the Hepatitis C virus infection in relation to injection drug use among persons below the age of 30; a recent article in the UK’s DailyMail reports a record-breaking three million drug users in Afghanistan, which also happens to be the world’s leading producer of opium.

In short, we are not facing a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ situation—we are well beyond that; if public figures such as Tym Rourke, chairman of New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan’s commission on alcohol and drug abuse prevention, treatment and recovery, have anything to say about it, the time for change is forcing many people’s hands: “We have reached a new and unfortunate level in the epidemic where it is touching too many people too directly. The reality of the crisis is that it’s becoming less and less possible for you to walk into a room with more than 10 people and find someone not affected by the drug epidemic.”

Hosting a small-business roundtable at a brewery in New Hampshire (there’s a little bit of irony for you), Clinton fielded many locals’ questions regarding the toll on The Granite Star, which include the 325 overdoses in 2014, of which 90% were opiates and opioids related, and the 76 confirmed drug deaths this year. In response, Clinton assured attendees that she plans on making drugs and mental health a big part of her campaign:

We need a concerted policy — national, state, local, public and private — and we need to try to help young people like the mother and her grandson.”

For her, the road to the nation’s recovery begins with “adequately funding mental health and substance abuse treatment programs — not cutting them… and making sure insurance companies take care of mental health in the same way they approach physical health.” But Republicans are weighing in on the issue of drugs as well. New Jersey Governor and 2016 Presidential Candidate hopeful Chris Christie agreed that the War on Drugs was a complete failure and posited that drug abuse is treatable if talked about and treated like an illness rather than a moral failure. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul recently shared similar sentiments against the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. Things could get interesting as the Presidential race continues onward, seeing that if Rand or Christie are elected, they may face pressure from the GOP to come out swinging against Obamacare, which has staunchly supported anyone under its sold insurance programs seeking treatment for substance abuse treatment. Repealing it could affect the tens of thousands of men and women seeking treatment every day.

Perhaps what is most important is that although the drug abuse epidemic is growing, so is rampant support for its demise.