Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie and Donald Trump. In a campaign among them marked by hostility and disagreement, interestingly it seems that these four Republican presidential candidates do agree on one important issue in the public health realm: that drug addiction is a major problem in the United States, and battling it requires a better strategy.
And aside from Trump, who has no public position on the issue to date, the other three Oval Office hopefuls are embracing better drug treatment for addicts and criminal justice reform as potential solutions to the growing problem.
As rock legend Henry Rollins once said, nothing brings people together more than hatred. And these four candidates each have a personal vendetta against addiction, because all have seen family members or close friends wrestle with or succumb to addiction.
Bush s daughter, Noelle, was arrested in January 2002 while trying to buy the anti-anxiety drug Xanax with a fraudulent prescription. Noelle lapsed several times while in rehab.
I never expected to see my precious daughter in jail, Bush wrote in an online post. It s very debilitating when you have a loved one who is struggling, and you can t control it.
Fiorina s stepdaughter, Lori Ann, battled prescription drug addiction for years. She died of an undisclosed drug overdose in 2009 at the age of 35.
We need to tell young people the truth. Drug addiction is an epidemic, and it is taking too many of our young people, Fiorina said during the second Republican presidential debate. My husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction.
As for Christie, his close friend and law school classmate became hooked on the prescription painkiller Percocet after a back injury. In 2014, he was found dead and alone in a hotel room at age 52 an empty bottle of painkillers and a vodka bottle by his side.
He had everything. ... He [was] a drug addict, the New Jersey Governor said, speaking to a New Hampshire audience last week. And he couldn t get help and he s dead. It can happen to anyone. Christie's emotional story apparently stuck a cord with Americans, as the speech received more than four million views on Facebook.
As for Trump, his older brother, Fred, struggled throughout his adult life with alcoholism, leading to his tragic death in 1981 at the age of 43.
He had a profound impact on my life, because you never know where you re going to end up, Trump said in an interview with People Magazine. I ve known so many people that were so strong and so powerful [yet] they were unable to stop drinking.
With platforms mostly alien to one another, these four candidates appear to agree that addiction especially drug-realted addiction must be addressed, and each has proposed a plan to combat the epidemic.
Bush proposes a childhood addiction prevention program, improved care for nonviolent offenders, harsher punishments for illegal drug sales, and stricter methods to stop the flow of illegal drugs across the border.
It is imperative to reduce both the demand and supply if treatment and recovery programs are going to work, Bush said.
Fiorina and Christie also emphasize increased investment in mental health and addiction treatment, as well as criminal justice reform.
If you re criminalizing drug abuse, you re not treating it, Fiorina wrote in a recent TIME magazine op-ed. Drug offenders who go into treatment rather than through the normal criminal justice system are about 25% less likely to be re-arrested in the two years after leaving the program.
This is a disease, Christie said in a Face the Nation interview with CBS News. The war on drugs has been a failure. And what we need to do now is to work on giving people the tools that we know we have available to us. ¦ Let s stop spending money on incarcerating non-violent people because they are drug addicted. Let s get them into treatment. And let's give them the tools to get better.