Not long ago, former first lady Hillary Clinton announced that she would be running for president in the 2016 elections. Since then, she has been traveling the country campaigning, and she recently talked about how she hopes to find a solution for the substance abuse and mental health issues that have been plaguing the United States for years. While she was in Iowa and New Hampshire, she was repeatedly told that these issues must receive more attention because there is an epidemic.
After hearing of the growing problem with drug addiction, the Democratic presidential candidate discovered that the primary cause of overdose comes from opiates and prescription medications. Recent statistics have shown that more people die in America from prescription drug overdoses than both cocaine and heroin combined. Some of these prescription medications are opiates, like oxycodone, Vicodin and OxyContin, but many people are also overdosing from medications prescribed for anxiety and hyperactive disorders as well.
Aside from prescription medications, heroin is the opiate that’s most used on the street because it’s more potent and much cheaper to buy. Many people who become addicted to prescription opiates eventually can’t afford to maintain their addiction, so they find that heroin gives them a better high for a much cheaper price. In 2012, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released statistics that overdoses from heroin had doubled between the year 2010 and 2012.
Hillary states in one of her most recent speeches that many of America’s problems are intertwined and can be traced back to problems with mental health and substance abuse. For example, mental health issues can lead to substance abuse problems, but the treatment for those who suffer from these issues is not sufficient. Many people who suffer from legitimate mental health and substance abuse problems are put in jail or prison rather than treated, and Clinton hopes to change this.
In a recent speech, Clinton stated, “I have to do everything I can in this campaign to raise it, to end the stigma against talking about it.” She has found that many people are uneducated when it comes to problems with mental health and substance abuse and this is why so many people are in jail. Statistics have shown that an overwhelming percentage of the prison population is there as a result of a drug- or alcohol-related crime. These situations could have been that the person was under the influence at the time of the crime, were in possession of illegal substances or they were committing the crime in order to support their addiction.
She refers to the nation’s problem with substance abuse as a “quiet epidemic” because so many people don’t like to talk about it. When someone in a family is struggling with addiction, it can tear the family apart and often bring shame to all of those involved due to the lack of understanding. Although she understands there is a growing issue, she mentioned that the Affordable Care Act is commendable because it requires health insurance companies to provide treatment options for mental health and substance abuse problems. She does hope to reform the policies in regards to the bill if she is elected to office because she wants to make it national rather than local.
During her speech at the 18th annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum at Columbia University, she spoke about how there is a direct correlation between the riots in Baltimore and the lack of treatment for those with mental health and drug abuse problems. Those who suffer from these types of issues are much more likely to be arrested or live in poverty as a result. Her hope is to be able to provide more community-based treatment centers to help these types of people rather than putting them in jails or prisons.
She believes that by tackling the epidemic of substance abuse and mental health in America, there will be less poverty and less fatalities. Unlike the War on Drugs, Clinton believes that substance abuse is a mental health issue, so if she can help those who suffer from substance abuse problems, she will be able to help put an end to one of the biggest health issues in the world today.