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Amid Heroin Crisis, GOP Contenders Reframe Addiction as a Health Issue

February 02, 2016
Several Republican presidential candidates have responded to the heroin crisis by calling for treating low-level drug use with health services instead of prison time, reports Al Jazeera.

Several Republican presidential candidates have responded to the heroin crisis by calling for treating low-level drug use with health services instead of prison time, reports Al Jazeera; “last month in New Hampshire, GOP contenders unveiled several ideas — although few with detailed plans — to treat heroin addiction via rehabilitation, from placing more emphasis on drug prevention and targeting drug dealers instead of users to expanding recovery programs.”

It’s hard to ignore the factor of race in considering the mainstream conservative support for compassionate, public health-based responses to the heroin problem today, which is seen as a white issue, in contrast with the harsh, punitive responses to crack, perceived as an African American drug, during the War on Drugs era.

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry in July 2014 showed that nearly 90 percent of recent heroin users were white. And about 75 percent of new users came from rural or suburban areas, many in states that are GOP strongholds.

“Given that we have a drug problem now perceived as a white problem, although no one articulates it that way, there is a greater openness to thinking about the problem more broadly, to showing compassion,” said Marc Mauer, the executive director of The Sentencing Project, a group that advocates for reduce incarceration rates. “By comparison, in the 1980s, when crack emerged on the scene, it was very much perceived as a black drug. In that case, Congress and state legislatures raced in record time to implement very harsh, punitive policies.”

Read the full article in Al Jazeera.

 
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