At the Netroots Nation conference in Atlanta, Georgia this year, co-founder Stephanie Taylor moderated a panel on the drug epidemic called a�?Leta��s Talk About Drugs: The Opioid Epidemic and Why It Should Be a Core Political Issue for Democrats.a�? Panelists included Cathy Glasson, a registered nurse running for Governor of Iowa, as well as West Virginia union activist Sammi Brown and Tom Perriello, the former congressman from Virginia who now runs Win Virginia, a group focused on the 2017 state elections.

The panelists discussed both the scale of the crisis, and some key electoral data points.

Facts About Scale:

From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses. 140 people are estimated to die from drug overdoses every day, and about two-thirds of those deaths are linked to opioids.1

In 2015, the five states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose were West Virginia (41.5 per 100,000), New Hampshire (34.3 per 100,000), Kentucky (29.9 per 100,000), Ohio (29.9 per 100,000), and Rhode Island (28.2 per 100,000).2

In 2016, drug overdoses killed more Americans in one year than the entire Vietnam War. One forecast predicted that 650,000 more people will die from opioid overdoses in the next 10 years.3

Facts About Electoral Impact:

A recent Penn State study found Trump overperformed the most in counties with the highest drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates.4

Ohio: 6 of the 9 Ohio counties that flipped from Democrat to Republican in 2016 logged overdose death rates far above the national rate of 14.7 people per 100,000. Nearly every Ohio county with an overdose death rate above 20 per 100,000 saw voting gains of 10% or more for Trump compared with Romney and/or drops of 10% or more for Hillary Clinton compared to President Barack Obama in 2012.5

29 of 33 Pennsylvania counties with overdose death rates above 20 per 100,000 conformed to the same pattern and/or flipped from Democrat to Republican entirely.6

Trump offered a scapegoat for the overdose crisis – immigrants. Historian Kathleen Frydl pointed out that many counties marked by a high level of support for Trump actually have experienced comparatively low levels of immigration from Mexico, they were awash in news of an influx of heroin from Mexico and fentanyl from China. When Trump recently made news for calling New Hampshire a a�?drug-infested den,a�? he also added that the drugs were a�?coming from the southern border.a�? So he overtly links his racist and nationalist message to the drug crisis.7

So What to Do About It?

Talk about it. If you are running for office, use your time on the campaign trail to ask your constituents how they have been impacted, and how you can help.

Support common-sense solutions. Help your community expand access to medication-assisted treatment, as well as the life-saving overdose antidote naloxone. This article in Vox has some great ideas.

Address root causes. Addiction is related to social issues like poverty, depression, and isolation. As you talk about addiction during your campaign, make sure to acknowledge all the challenges faced by those who are vulnerable a�� and invite your constituents to propose solutions as well.

References

  1. a�?How to Stop the Deadliest Drug Overdose Crisis in American Historya�?. Vox.com. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  2. a�?Drug Overdose Death Dataa�?. CDC.gov. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  3. a�?How to Stop the Deadliest Drug Overdose Crisis in American Historya�?. Vox.com. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  4. a�?Deaths of Despair and Support for Trump in the 2016 Presidential Electiona�?. PSU.edu. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  5. a�?The Revenge of the ‘Oxy Electorate’ Helped Fuel Trump’s Election Upseta�?. BusinessInsider.com. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  6. a�?The Revenge of the ‘Oxy Electorate’ Helped Fuel Trump’s Election Upseta�?. BusinessInsider.com. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  7. a�?Did the Opioid Epidemic Help Donald Trump Win?a�?. TheNation.com. Retrieved 2017-08-09.