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Rise in heroin use emerges as 2016 presidential campaign issue
Urged on by state and community leaders, presidential candidates are addressing America's heroin epidemic on the campaign trail. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
Along with plans for economic growth and jabs at competitors, candidates in the 2016 presidential election are also talking about America's drug policy and the troubling rise in heroin addiction since the mid-1990s, confronting a crisis that is at once personal and political.

"Drug policy is deeply personal for those who are affected by addiction and the people who want to be president are talking about it," NPR reported, noting that candidates willing to speak candidly about the complex issue could win the votes of families affected by addiction.

Acknowledgement of the growing problem has taken many forms, according to The Washington Post.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and members of her campaign team have "held Google hangouts with treatment providers, law enforcement officials and others in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Clinton asked voters to share their thoughts on and experiences with substance abuse with her in a Facebook chat," the Post noted.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) met with leaders of a drug treatment facility in early May. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has called reforming drug laws one of the platforms of his campaign. And Republican Carly Fiorina has described her painful experience of losing a stepdaughter to drug addiction, asking voters to support her efforts to change how the justice system interacts with addicts.

As previously reported, "heroin use is reaching epidemic proportions" in America, with the rate of death from heroin overdose doubling from 2010 to 2012 in 28 states. Heroin has emerged as the cheaper and more accessible alternative to prescription painkillers, the abuse of which also kills thousands of Americans each year.

"A dose of heroin is now cheaper than a six-pack of good beer," noted Ted Gatsas, mayor of Machester, New Hampshire, in NPR's article. "There is no simple fix. We are not going to arrest our way out of this."

By visiting with lawmakers and voters in states struggling to serve current addicts and decrease heroin availability, candidates hope to earn a reputation for combatting the kinds of problems that affect thousands of everyday people but don't always grab headlines, NPR reported.

"While the issue may not drive people to the polls Americans don't count drugs among the most important problems facing the nation, according to a Gallup survey it's still an issue around kitchen tables and one that isn't going to leave the campaign trail any time soon," NPR noted.
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