Politicians on Drugs
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Politicians on Drugs


First it was Hillary Clinton winning raves for proposing that we put $10 billion toward medication assisted treatment—a controversial form of treatment to addicts and those who love them. Now we’ve got the other side spreading misinformation. We’re talking to you, Carly Fiorina.

While much of the chatter about last week’s debate centered around how it may be the beginning of the end for Donald Trump, those interested in addiction and recovery—or, I guess it needs to be said, addiction, alcoholism and recovery—zeroed in on Fiorina’s comments about her step-daughter, who died after being “lost to the demons of addiction” in October 2009 at the age of 34.

Pot Isn’t Like Having a Beer: It’s Far Less Dangerous

While Fiorina’s right on in supporting the idea of investing more in drug treatment, she’s not talking straight when it comes to drugs and alcohol. “We are misleading young people when we tell them marijuana is just like having beer,” Fiorina said from the stage, in order to promote her anti-legalization stance. “It’s not…We need to tell young people the truth. Drug addiction is an epidemic and it is taking too many of our young people. I know this sadly from personal experience.”

The former Hewlett Packard CEO had spoken about Lori’s issues already, noting that she had been in treatment three times, took prescription drugs and “struggled with bulimia and alcoholism.” Does it need to be stated that prescription meds, bulimia and alcoholism don’t have anything to do with pot or legalization?

Of course, the first part of Fiorina’s debate declaration is absolutely right: smoking pot is nothing like having a beer. That’s because weed is roughly 100 times less dangerous. There are two-and-a-half million alcohol-related deaths a year. As for pot, well, there were two Germans with “underlying health issues” whose use “likely triggered fatal complications” that led to their demise last year. There was the exchange student in Denver who died from a fall after eating a pot cookie. But, many believe, the number of pot ODs is exactly zero.

We’re Sorry, Carly, It’s All the Same

While we’re used to the idea of politicians doling out misinformation during debates in order to further their various agendas, often those are facts that can easily be shown to be accurate. That isn’t the case when it comes to an issue as widely misunderstood as addiction and alcoholism, which means that uncountable numbers of people heard Fiorina’s comments, nodded and went back to their beer or wine or vodka. At least, they could say to themselves, even if they were playing a drinking game where they took shots every time Trump mentioned his wealth, they weren’t smoking pot like those drug addicts out there!

Here’s the thing that those who’ve either suffered from or treated addiction know: addiction and alcoholism are the same thing. (The fact that many people believe they’re different is something we’ve discussed at length here at AfterParty; we originally had a section of the site called Alcoholism which we then changed to Addiction which we then changed to Alcoholism & Addiction which we then eliminated altogether.) It’s why AA is filled with former junkies, cokeheads, meth users and, yes, pot smokers. Yes, there’s NA, CA, MA and the like but sobriety in those programs means the same thing it means in AA: you don’t do your drug of choice but you also don’t drink.

It’s The Pills, Not the Pot

Back to poor Lori, who not only clearly suffered greatly during her too-short life but is also now being used in a political pawn. As noted above, Lori took prescription pills and was bulimic. That, not to understate matters, is a recipe for disaster, if not death. According to the CDC, 44 Americans die and almost 7000 are taken to the ER from painkillers alone every day. Bulimia can also be a death sentence.

We’ve published story after story about the dangers of opiates, as have a great many publications out there. But all the information in those stories can be obliterated in a heartbeat when someone who has a way of reaching 22 million people alters the information out there about a family member’s death and in doing so, loses an opportunity to educate the public about the lethal consequences of painkiller abuse in order to further her agenda about legalization.

Pot Isn’t in the Clear

I am not saying that weed isn’t dangerous. It increases the risk of psychosis, causes more car accidents than any other drug and even smokers admit it makes them “act stupid.” Nowhere is the latter more of a concern than in kids under the age of 25, whose brains aren’t fully formed.

It just doesn’t tend to kill. As for the gateway theory, here’s the truth: any drug can be the gateway to more serious drug use. And the most common gateway drug of all? Booze. In terms of my own experience, I first smoked pot a year or so after my first drink but it wasn’t weed that led me to my drug of choice, cocaine. Sure, it could have been. It’s different for everybody. It just so happened that mine was Fiorina’s allegedly benign example: a beer.

Photo Courtesy of Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Carly Fiorina) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)

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About Author

Anna David is the founder and former CEO/Editor-in-Chief of After Party. She hosts the Light Hustler podcast, formerly known as the AfterPartyPod. She's also the New York Times-bestselling author of the novels Party Girl and Bought and the non-fiction books Reality Matters, Falling For Me, By Some Miracle I Made It Out of There and True Tales of Lust and Love. She's written for numerous magazines, including Playboy, Cosmo and Details, and appeared repeatedly on the TV shows Attack of the Show, The Today Show and The Talk, among many others.