Donald Trump’s attacks on Hunter Biden for his past drug addiction could deepen the stigma for those struggling with similar issues, experts have warned.
The president and close allies have taken aim at the adult son of the Democratic candidate, including a false claim from Trump at the first presidential debate that Biden was thrown out of the military for cocaine use.
As NPR noted, the 50-year-old was given an administrative discharge from the U.S. Navy Reserve in 2014 after testing positive for cocaine, not given a dishonorable discharge, as Trump had claimed.
The report added that Biden has spoken openly about his past struggles with illegal drugs, and the former vice president acknowledged his son’s difficulties when Trump raised the issue at the debate, saying he was proud of Hunter for working on his issues and fixing it.
Other Republican allies have joined in launching attacks on Hunter Biden, which has intensified in the wake of a controversial New York Post story claiming that a laptop computer connected to Biden contained an email in which he improperly used his father’s influence to advance his own business interests.
The report, which has been disputed by critics and technology experts, also claimed that there were pictures of Biden smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine and engaged in a sex act. Neither the emails nor the pictures or videos included in the report have been verified, and some have suggested that at least some of the evidence may be fabricated.
Here is the clip of Donald Trump Jr. calling Hunter Biden "crackhead Hunter." pic.twitter.com/gSKlhmxJVX
— andrew kaczynski???? (@KFILE) September 30, 2020
Experts in substance abuse have warned that the sharp criticism could have a harmful effect on many others suffering similar issues. Eric Michael Garcia, a journalist who has been treated for alcohol and sex addiction, told NPR that it is often hard for many to admit they are suffering and need help. The very public critiques for Biden’s past drug abuse only makes the situation harder, Garcia said.
“I worried my personal shortcomings would be used against other people, people who I love,” he said. “I think that’s something that a lot of people with addiction fear.”
NPR noted that the blowback from the criticism could hurt the Trump campaign where it needs the most help. The CDC noted that the substance abuse epidemic has been especially devastating in what have become battleground states in the presidential election, including Ohio and Pennsylvania. Polls show Trump trailing his Democratic opponent in those states.