Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang spoke to Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti on The Hill’s show Rising on Tuesday and discussed his approach to dealing with addiction. In particular, he touched on his plan — if elected president — to invest in safe opioid injection sites, decriminalize opiates for personal use, and legalize marijuana.
“I was talking to a paramedic in New Hampshire who talked about if you saved an addict one week, you’d be back saving that same addict the following week because after you’re caught with a drug, there’s no place for you to go,” Yang said.
“You go home and you’re still addicted and you wind up in many cases overdosing again. So we need to refer these people to counseling, treatment and safe consumption sites as needed.”
According to Yang, the United States should look to countries like Portugal as models to address the current opioid crisis. The 44-year-old serial entrepreneur notes in his marijuana legalization plan that such countries have seen increases in treatment and declines in addiction and drug deaths.
Per The Hill, Portugal has experienced an 85 percent drop in the overdose death rate since enacting its decriminalization law. Not only that, the country saw just 20 people die from drug overdoses last year. Comparatively, the United States lost 70,000.
Yang also used his Tuesday interview to reveal what pushed him toward his current position on combating the opioid epidemic: a high school student in Iowa.
“…I credit that high school senior in Iowa for pointing out to me what the reality was on the ground.”
Asked by a fully recovered, former opioid addict how he would address the epidemic, @AndrewYang doubled down on his call to decriminalize opioids for personal use.— Nicole Sganga (@NicoleSganga) October 12, 2019
“If you are struggling with addiction we need to get you to treatment, not a prison cell," Yang says.#nhpolitics pic.twitter.com/76b6wyvqbu
During a previous interview with Fox News’ Shannon Bream, Yang claimed that eight Americans die of a drug overdose every hour and suggested that whatever approach the United States is currently taking with the addiction crisis is not working. He went on to say that the government was partly responsible for the current opioid epidemic and believes that addicts should not be left to their own devices to combat such “life-destroying” addictions.
According to the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition, Yang supports the regulation of pharmaceutical company marketing tactics via the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the same way the agency regulates new drugs. He also reportedly aims to work with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to limit the number of opioid-based medications that can be manufactured in any given year and ensure that prescriptions of such drugs are monitored in each community to help pinpoint excesses and regions of potential abuse.