At last night’s debate, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina again raised the story of her stepdaughter’s 2009 death after a battle with prescription drugs and alcohol. "I buried a child to drug addiction," Fiorina said.
Here is my colleague Jenna Johnson’s blog post from May, when Fiorina spoke with reporters about her stepdaughter’s death and said that drug addiction “shouldn’t be criminalized,” an opinion increasingly voiced in some places, even by law enforcement officers and prosecutors.
As many people have become aware, the United States continues to suffer an epidemic of addiction to prescription opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine. As the government has cracked down on the abuse of those drugs, making them more expensive on the street, the past few years have seen a huge rise in addiction to heroin, which is similar but much cheaper and widely available. The United States averages 110 overdose deaths from legal and illegal drugs every day. The heroin death toll has quadrupled in the decade that ended in 2013.
The national drug death total is now larger than the toll from auto accidents.
Many believe that government is only now reacting because these drugs have invaded the middle class. See Marc Fisher’s incredible story on two brothers in Maine who overdosed; one survived, the other did not.
And last month, a small county in southwestern Pennsylvania recorded eight overdoses in 69 minutes. Sadly, that total was just an extreme example of what Washington County, Pa. sees every day: an average of about five to eight heroin overdoses.
The number of infants who go through withdrawal from heroin and other opiates also has quadrupled over nine years, and rates of hepatitis C, fueled by needle sharing among injection drug users, are skyrocketing.