Hillary Clinton, Heroin, and the Time to be Heard

Three weeks ago, Hillary Clinton’s health-policy advisor called me to discuss the opiate epidemic, its causes and what could be done about it.feed-image-1

The advisor said she was reading my book, Dreamland, and that Mrs. Clinton had read my NY Times op-ed column of April 19 about the issue.

The advisor told me Mrs. Clinton had been hearing a lot of very passionate comments from parents with addicted children as she campaigned in Iowa and New Hampshire.

We spent an hour on the phone, talking about policy, about pain pills, pill mills, Mexican heroin trafficking, and about the quiet surrounding this epidemic that had allowed it to spread.

So I’m glad to see that Mrs. Clinton is now coming up with policy proposals to address it, one of which is to begin talking about it and end the stigma and silence surrounding addiction.

This epidemic is neither a red nor a blue issue. Thus I hope candidates from both parties will respond as well. I’ll be happy to chat with them, if they want to call.

I’d hope, moreover, they would focus not only on heroin, but on the broader problem of overprescribing of opiate painkillers, which so often provide the gateway to heroin. (Pain pills have their legitimate role in medicine, but too often are massively and unnecessarily prescribed.)

But there’s another important point in this. I believe parents of addicted children need to use this approaching presidential campaign as a way of magnifying their voices.

As a longtime journalist, I know that the most poignant stories are the ones that can have the most impact. Sadly, many parents up to now have kept silent, ashamed or simply worn out by their children’s addiction.

That is changing. More are stepping forward, as Mrs. Clinton was hearing on the campaign. Some are mentioning heroin overdose as a cause of death in their children’s obituaries – an act of enormous, and necessary, courage.

But these stories are still not being heard the way they need to be.

During past drug scourges, public violence aroused public ire. The crack years, for example, saw drive-by shootings and carjackings. I was a crime reporter during those years and saw this first hand.

None of that public violence has happened during this epidemic. So the job of arousing public attention falls almost entirely to parents.

I believe this presidential campaign offers an opportunity to be heard, to magnify voices. Make opiate abuse (pain pills and heroin) and overprescribing a point of presidential debate.

To do that, parents in particular need to step forward and tell their stories the way no one else can.

Photo: Hillary For President website


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5 Responses to Hillary Clinton, Heroin, and the Time to be Heard

  1. Norm Platt

    This issue is at the “Top of the To Do List” for President Elect Donald Trump, and he got a “wake up call” in New Hampshire when he visited during the campaign and found that the quiet sleepy towns of NH were experiencing this epidemic of heroine and black tar deaths and addictions. I’m confident that he is surrounding himself with Professionals who are serious about “problem solving” and his idea of increasing “Border Control” and getting serious about cutting off the source of heroine and opiates, drugs from Mexican and USA Dealers will go along way to stop one side of the argument. The other very important issue that he will address is “Rehabilitation” which is very difficult, as I know first hand being a “Recovering Acoholic”. Thanks for all you do to bring an awareness and suggestions in solving this most important tragedy in our American and Western Culture in General. God Bless Sam

  2. Christine

    Sam, I think the qualities you bring to your writing and speaking are making a big contribution to getting this topic “heard”. You blend facts and story perfectly and you convey your message with such genuine heart. Just don’t want that overlooked.

  3. Rick Rice

    My cynicism tells me that they are looking for the sweet spot in the war on drugs, if indeed there really has been one. The Obama administration is actively seizing assets of the cartels, at the moment the New Generation. My hunch is that Clinton seeks to divert attention from the violence associated with drug issues and focus attention on the softer side. More politically appealing and also doesn’t preclude the possibility of making a ton of money from the very people who “import” this garbage into the U.S. The Clintons are all about winning and money. They are grooming you.

  4. Hi Sam,

    This is indeed encouraging to see Hillary interested. Hopefully she’ll address it in a big way, like making pharma companies accountable? Hard to say if that’ll ever happen. Maybe you should comp a copy of Dreamland to Purdue’s CEO!

    I’ve recommended it to the folks at RAND that are conducting the study on the homeless that I’m involved in. It’s sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

    Looking forward to your amazing work reaching far into the institutions and policy making that can do something about this.


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