What Hillary Clinton Could Do About the Opioid Crisis


During a recent campaign stop, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton promised to make the “quiet epidemic” involving heroin and prescription opioids an important part of her presidential campaign — and, presumably, of her presidency, should she be elected. She mentioned the issue of substance misuse again in her highly publicized speech on criminal justice reform last week.

As someone intimately familiar with the devastating impact of this public health crisis on individuals, families and communities, I was very pleased to hear this, and thought of several ways she could make good on her pledge.

Here are five simple steps Clinton could take, as candidate or President, that could significantly shape the course of opioid addiction in the United States.

1. Define the problem in the right way.

All too often we hear the problem labeled as a prescription drug abuse crisis or heroin abuse crisis. Using language like this is not only inaccurate, but also misleading. It suggests that the main problem is people behaving badly by using dangerous drugs for recreational purposes. In reality, the reason opioid overdose deaths are at historic levels and the reason heroin is flooding into non-urban communities across the country is because the number of Americans who have developed the disease of opioid addiction — both from non-medical (a.k.a., “recreational”) and medical use — has skyrocketed: From 1997 to 2011, the number of Americans seeking treatment for addiction to opioid painkillers increased by 900 percent.

I don’t mean to suggest that everyone who dies of an accidental opioid overdose was suffering from addiction. There are a significant number of deaths occurring in people who were experimenting with recreational opioid use, and there are also many deaths in pain patients who were not addicted. But several studies have shown that —> Read More