Substance Abuse

Carson Links Drug Addiction to Loss of Values as Issue Heats Up on Campaign Trail

The Republican presidential candidate offered a markedly different assessment of what causes addiction than rivals Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton.

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For Republican presidential front-runner Ben Carson, many of the world's problems seem to circle back around to political correctness. 

On Sunday, for example, Carson was asked what causes drug addiction and how it should be treated. 

“Usually addictions occur in people who are vulnerable, who are lacking something in their lives,” the retired neurosurgeon said on CBS's Face the Nation. “We have to really start asking ourselves, what have we taken out of our lives in America? What are some of those values and principles that allowed us to ascend the ladder of success so rapidly to the very pinnacle of the world and the highest pinnacle anyone else had ever reached, and why are we in the process of throwing away all of our values and principles for the sake of political correctness?”

Carson has frequently railed against political correctness on the campaign trail, but citing it while discussing the issue of drug addiction is noteworthy because of its timing.

Voters in New Hampshire named drug abuse—not jobs, the economy, or Obamacare—the top problem facing the state that will have the nation's first 2016 primary election, according to a poll in October by WMUR. Heroin abuse is particularly severe in the Granite State. 

Last week, a video of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie calling for a more humane approach to drug addiction went viral, gaining millions of views and earning praise across the political spectrum for the Republican trailing in the polls.

At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, Christie recounted the story of a law school friend who died due to an addiction to prescription painkillers, as well as his mother's cigarette habit and lung cancer diagnosis, and argued that addicts should be treated compassionately. 

“There but for the grace of God go I,” Christie said. “It can happen to anyone.”

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also weighed in on addiction in New Hampshire last week, recounting some of his daughter Noelle's struggle with drugs. “She went through hell,” Bush told the Huffington Post. “And so did her mom, and so did her dad. And it was in a private setting, but then it became very public when I was governor. And it wasn’t easy.” 

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has made fighting drug and alcohol addiction a centerpiece of her campaign, pledging to spend $7.5 billion over 10 years to fund federal-state partnerships to combat the problem. 

“It’s time we recognize as a nation that for too long, we have had a quiet epidemic on our hands,” Clinton wrote in a September op-ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader. “Plain and simple, drug and alcohol addiction is a disease, not a moral failing—and we must treat it as such.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors for drug addiction include genetics and the environment in which one is raised. Additionally, the chemical reaction one experiences in the brain as a result of the drug plays a major role. 

“Physical addiction appears to occur when repeated use of a drug changes the way your brain feels pleasure,” the clinic states on its website. “The addicting drug causes physical changes to some nerve cells (neurons) in your brain.”

A rising death rate among middle-aged white Americans has been linked in part to alcohol-related liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.

In his Sunday appearance, Carson addressed heroin addiction, but focused on the supply and movement of the drug. 

“There is a transportation of heroin through our southern borders that is unimaginable,” Carson said “This is not a good thing for us. We need to not give up on this war on drugs.”

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