The Texas Republican speaks of his half-sister, Miriam, who struggled with addiction for years and died of an overdose of pills a few years ago. Her son found her dead in her bed, Cruz said.
“She spent her entire life struggling with both drug and alcohol addiction,” Cruz said. She spent years going in and out of prison. “She was a beautiful, delightful person who made a series of wrong choices over and over again.”
Cruz said his grandfather and uncle both died of alcoholism.
The nation is in the midst of an epidemic of opiate abuse – heroin deaths have quadrupled over the past decade nationwide. New Hampshire has been hit particularly hard, with about 400 overdoses last year.
Presidential candidates campaigning here have been asked the question continually during primary season. A response from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about prioritizing treatment for people who are addicted to drugs has gone viral. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush spoke movingly of his daughter’s struggles with substance abuse and has released a plan on how to tackle addiction nationwide. Carly Fiorina has spoken of her stepdaughter, who struggled with addiction and died in her 30s. Hillary Clinton unveiled a $10 million plan to fight drug abuse.
Cruz hasn’t gotten the question often; he also hasn’t been in New Hampshire as much as other candidates, splitting his time between Iowa, South Carolina and Southern states that vote March 1.
For two of his three answers, Cruz first brought up the idea that securing the U.S.-Mexico border is necessary to help the opiate crisis; he then spoke of treatment, which is what many of the other candidates stress initially.
“When we secure the border … that will have a dramatic effect reducing the supply,” Cruz said, noting that violent gangs that are trafficking humans are also “bringing in vast quantities of drugs.”
Cruz also said he believes there should be more access to treatment and drug courts.
“Drug courts for nonviolent, low-level drug offenses rather than locking someone up for a long time,” he said. “Put them in treatment and help them overcome their addiction.”