Health

New Hampshire primary: Opioid crisis is a top issue for candidates, a personal battle for families

CBS This Morning” explores how issues on the campaign trail actually affect people around the country with our series “Every State has a Story.”


New Hampshire, where the nation casts its first votes of the 2020 primary cycle Tuesday, is among the top five states for opioid-involved deaths. With a mortality rate twice the national average, 2020 Democrats have stopped at opioid rehab facilities all over the state to stay in touch with an issue plaguing many American families.

The Wilson family has been struggling with drug abuse spanning generations, and according to 64-year-old Paula Wilson, “the cycle of addiction is strong.”

Wilson, a recovering opioid addict herself who struggled with alcoholism, has been taking care of her 16-year-old grandson for eight years.

“He’s a high-risk kid because of a number of factors – his early childhood experiences, the family history,” she told CBS News’ Major Garrett. “Both my husbands were heroin addicts. Three of my children have been multi-drug users, but primarily opioids have been their drug of choice.”

Democratic primary candidates have fielded questions about opioids at almost every New Hampshire stop, calling for everything from classifying addiction as a medical issue to holding big pharma executives criminally responsible. The personal damage is already done for Wilson, who says “we’re raising a nation of parentless children directly related to the opioid crisis.”

“The biggest loss is that grandchild relationship. It’s something to grieve over,” she said.

The Wilson family’s story is not unique. Research shows the number of children across the country in foster care due to parental drug use has more than doubled in the last 20 years. Experts have in part linked this to the opioid epidemic.

Despite his family struggle, Wilson’s teenage grandson Devon, who swims and runs track, said he’s seen enough addiction. He said he doesn’t hold any fear for the future. “I’m not scared at all,” he said.

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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