Addiction has wide-reaching effects.
As candidates begin to announce their intention to run for office in 2020, recovery is on the ballot. Instead of being a stigmatized issue, or wrapped up in old ideas about extending the ineffective War on Drugs, recovery is now a part of several candidates’ political platforms.
More candidates are acknowledging the need to address the national health crisis as a wide-reaching, systemic problem. Some candidates have included legalization of substances in their platforms; others talk about medical support and better access to care. Thanks to the efforts of recovery advocates, addiction is being talked about as a “nonpartisan” issue.
Addiction has wide-reaching effects. One in three families is impacted by addiction, and an estimated 21 million Americans have substance use disorder. People who are incarcerated have disproportionately high rates of addiction. People who belong to marginalized groups, such as people of color or people who are LGBTQ, also face increased risk. According to the Surgeon General’s 2016 report on addiction, every dollar spent to support recovery in people with substance use disorder frees up seven dollars of funding.
There are plenty of reasons to face addiction, at the state and federal levels. It is an issue that cannot be ignored. For some candidates, personal experience with recovery has inspired them to seek office. Some people are running as “recovery candidates,” people who understand first-hand how addiction affects families and communities and have unique insights that can help solve the problem.
Bethany Hallam, for example, is running for city council in Allegheny County, Pittsburgh. She’s the only candidate for public office that has struggled openly with an opioid addiction.
Another candidate, David Marlon, is running as an addiction recovery advocate for a position on the Las Vegas city council. Marlon is a person in recovery and founded Solutions Recovery, Nevada’s largest treatment center. He described himself as “called” to public service.
The willingness to be public about personal recovery, and talk about it as an asset during a campaign, is groundbreaking. Addiction still carries a serious stigma, and although it is a disorder, some people still treat it as a moral failing. Treating this illness as a strength and not a weakness is another significant change that shows how attitudes toward addiction and recovery are changing.
Regardless of party affiliation, it’s clear that recovery is important to everyone—constituents and candidates alike.