In the most recent exhibition of the GOP’s slipping grasp on reality, Carly Fiorina told a bunch of extravagant lies. One thing she didn’t lie about was burying a child to drug addiction. The loss of Lori Ann Fiorina, back in 2009, at the age of 34, is clearly a tragedy. But the invocation of her name during a political debate about marijuana is not just misleading, but morally wrong.
America has spent decades convincing ourselves that addiction is a criminal issue. “Tough on Crime” drug policies, including mandatory minimums, have put thousands of people in jail for non-violent drug-related crimes, which is a failure in judgment in almost countless ways. Chief among them is the fact that criminals in prison are even less likely to have access to healthcare and rehabilitation resources than they would be if left to their own devices.
Simply put, it’s time to yank addiction out of our national political conversations and accept it for what it is: one of the most important public health issues of our time.
Addiction Is a Medical Issue—Not a Political One
In Central Pennsylvania, where I currently reside, we’re seeing what health experts are calling an epidemic of heroin-related deaths. For some people, this has emboldened the rallying cry for even stricter “tough on crime” measures, while for others it’s seen as an opportunity to finally move addiction into a national spotlight as a medical issue.
See, we’ve very nearly achieved a scientific consensus on the fact that addiction is a disease. Indeed; if the government’s left hand knew what its right was doing, our legislative branch would recognize that the National Institute on Drug Abuse refers to addiction as a disease simply as a matter of course.
Trust and Choice
Even in the private sector, various addictions seem to be regarded with both the care and understanding that it deserves. If you visit a reputable casino, for example, you’re likely to come across any number of printed or posted warnings about how to take part “responsibly.”
This is a very enlightened—even libertarian, if you’re into that sort of thing—way to go about discussing addiction. It suggests, rightly, that we’re all free to pursue whatever forms of recreation we prefer, provided we observe two important caveats: 1) We harm no one else in the process, and 2) We proceed with as much information (and caution) as is currently available. It’s the reason why nutrition labels are so vitally important: they reveal the heinous additives in sugary breakfast cereal (for example), thereby empowering us to make an informed (and, hopefully, responsible) choice in what we eat for breakfast.
The Root of the Problem
It’s clear that the Republican Party has learned nothing from our many long decades of failed drug policy. Alongside the Muslim and the immigrant, drug addictions rank among the GOP’s favorite scapegoats for society’s ills.
Indeed, even many of the GOP’s presidential aspirants still seem to regard drug use and abuse as an issue unto itself, whereas back in reality, we’ve come to recognize addiction as not just a symptom of a larger problem, but as a catalyst for additional ones, including America’s almost unprecedented levels of homelessness. The solutions to all of these problems are within our grasp, but it’s going to take a renewed call for common sense—one that will finally break through years of entrenched rhetoric and outright lies about drug culture.
Copyright 2015 The Moderate Voice