Discussion of Drug Addiction: Is It All About Race?

By: Matthew Ryan

During the Presidential primary season, one public health issue has gotten particular attention: heroin drug addiction. Candidates from both parties have spoken eloquently and passionately about the need to resolve drug addiction with public health solutions. The current language and proposals are far different from tough law-and-order rhetoric from the 1980s during the cocaine addiction epidemic. These differences should not be overlooked: they should inform how race impacts our perceptions as both public health practitioners and policy-makers.

In a post on Medium, Jeb Bush spoke vulnerably about his daughter’s heroin addiction. He wrote, “As a father, I have felt the heartbreak of drug abuse. I never expected to see my precious daughter in jail… She went through hell… and so did I.”

Carly Fiorina has also spoken powerfully about losing her stepdaughter to drug addiction. In an email to supporters, she was emphatic, “If you’re criminalizing drug abuse and addiction, you’re not treating it—and you’re part of the problem.” Read More