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joe-biden

Vice President Joe Biden at the Silfen Forum in 2018. 

Credit: Lulu Wang

An authentic and passionate tone takes over former Vice President Joe Biden’s voice every time he talks about his family. As a man that has endured deep loss, his choice to not veil his unconditional love for the people dearest to his heart is admirable. This praiseworthy trait was on complete display during the first United States presidential debate, when former Vice President Biden stood up to President Donald Trump’s verbal attack on his son Hunter Biden. Former Vice President Biden openly stated how proud he was for his son for overcoming a drug addiction. The elder Biden is right to be proud of his son Hunter’s triumph — we all should take note of his transparency and decency. 

Unfortunately, we live in a world full of social stigmas. From an early age, we are taught: don’t do this, it is bad, and prioritize this, it is normal. This way of thinking has some beneficial factors, but it simultaneously condemns human behaviors that fall outside the scope of what we as a society view to be standard. Addiction is largely perceived as abnormal, but from a broadened perspective, that is far from accurate. A 2017 survey reported that 38% of American adults suffered from an illicit drug use disorder that year. 

Realistically, the impact of addiction is profound. Each year, the American government spends an astonishing and evolving $740 billion to combat the loss of employment and healthcare costs related to addiction. President Trump’s national security budget proposal is almost equivalent to the amount spent on addiction-related costs. 

Contrary to what oppression has influenced us to think, and unlike COVID-19, addiction doesn't discriminate. It has the ability to impact people from every environment and community. Former Vice President Biden has been advocating expanding the ways we think about addiction for over a decade. He has recognized, and continues to recognize, the huge influence addiction contributes to our society. Confronting the obvious issue that individuals, families, communities, and health care systems are struggling to combat addiction, while simultaneously implementing change, is imperative. 

Pennsylvania is one of the most addiction-impacted states in the entire country. One trip to the Kensington area of Philadelphia will illuminate this city’s dire issue with addiction. Safehouse, a progressive nonprofit organization that prioritizes the value of life and humanity in all people addicted to substances, had been given the green light to open a safe injection site in Philadelphia earlier this year, prior to the roar of the pandemic. The plan to open has since been halted because of an ongoing legal battle. The judge presiding over the matter, U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh, announced in June that the “nerves of citizens are frayed by fear and uncertainty” and keep the center from opening. The opening of this facility will save lives and decrease the negative effects of drug use. We must stop engaging in a progress-lacking, stagnant approach to combatting addiction. 

Ultimately, we are not combating addiction the way we need to. It is a massively influential problem. We need a pragmatic approach to helping people who struggle with addiction. As a majority, we do not currently bear the perspectives and systems required to save lives and help the many families that grapple with addiction. Frannie Lou’s Porch, a local cafe and community center in Philadelphia, has begun holding monthly Narcan training events to promote safety and awareness in Philadelphia. A staggering 70,237 people died from drug overdose in 2017. That is more than 192 people a day. As the current pandemic’s deadly path continues, deaths related to addiction also continue to be on the rise. There was a 42% spike in overdoses recorded in the United States this past May. These numbers are an astonishing and overwhelming reflection of addiction's deadliness. 

It is clear that our current administration lacks adequate and coherent planning skills. Former Vice President Biden has proven that he will provide us with the opposite of the abject chaos we have become accustomed to over the last four years. His unwavering compassion, dedication, and bravery are what we need right now. The stakes have never been higher. Our democracy is diminishing. Former Vice President Biden will do much more than help our nation confront addiction — he will also address the deadly lashing of the pandemic, climate change, structural racism, and the broken economy that has left millions of Americans starving.

JESSICA GOODING is a College senior from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania studying History and English. Her email address is jgooding@sas.upenn.edu.

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