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Chris Christie on Drug Treatment

HuffPo has a six-minute clip of an incredibly powerful Chris Christie talk [1] on the campaign trail, in which he challenged the way we deal with drug abuse in this country. It’s one of the most compelling things I’ve ever heard any politician say. He starts by talking about how his mother, a smoker so addicted to nicotine that she couldn’t quit, contracted lung cancer in her 70s. Christie says nobody said, “Well, she deserved it, let’s not give her chemotherapy.” So why do so many people object to giving treatment to drug and alcohol addicts? he asks. He ties his support for drug treatment to being pro-life. And then he tells the story about a law school classmate who, as a practicing lawyer, had to take Percocet for an injury. He became addicted, and … well, watch the video. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of it.

If the next president is a Republican, I hope he or she finds something important for Chris Christie to do in the administration. I swear, I would rather do almost anything than watch a politician talk for six minutes, but this is riveting stuff.

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40 Comments To "Chris Christie on Drug Treatment"

#1 Comment By Sam M On November 2, 2015 @ 7:23 am

I’m a legalized. But I’m not sure his anecdotes say what we might think they say. Especially the lawyer. He didn’t need programs or rehab. He paid for all of that on his own. He had fantastic support. Governor level support. And he died.

We typically think of support as meaning the lower caste has access to the programs this guy had access to.

The most terrifying thing is that we don’t know what works. Quite often nothing does.

#2 Comment By tofudog On November 2, 2015 @ 8:08 am

It’s so compelling because normally all of these candidates stick to talking points and phrases that their pollsters have scripted for them. Of course their personal experiences will shape how they govern, but they rarely veer off their scripts, and so we don’t really get to know them.

As for drug addiction experiences, I think Fiorina might be another exception, as she had a step-daughter who overdosed on illegal drugs.

#3 Comment By AJ On November 2, 2015 @ 8:11 am

This is the first suggestion from Christy that he might be worth a second look. Addiction is a medical issue and should never be a legal one.

If he were only an anti-interventionist in war, not only the War on Drugs that we lost long ago, destabilizing México in the process. Sadly, no. In war in general, he is like all the rest.

#4 Comment By Chris403 On November 2, 2015 @ 9:08 am

I don’t necessarily disagree with Christie, but…

Many or even most drinkers and drug users are not addicts; they are people who like to party but don’t fit the definition of addict. Also, many or even most who are addicts do not want help quitting, or they would have dragged themselves to an NA or AA meeting. Forcing someone to quit is going to have a very low success rate.

Should we offer help? Sure. Will it do much good? I don’t think so.

#5 Comment By Sam M On November 2, 2015 @ 9:13 am

I meant I am a legalizer.

#6 Comment By DancerGirl On November 2, 2015 @ 9:17 am

I saw this video over the weekend and was astonished — it was amazing. That came on the heels of two things: (1) reading an article in The New York Times about white parents of children who were addicted to heroin, most of whom — if not all of whom — had died, and (2) the uproar over the Student Resource Officer in South Carolina who dealt with a quiet, non-violent, but non-compliant and defiant young girl who refused to leave the classroom by putting her a chokehold, flipping her desk backward and to the ground, and once she was on the floor, roughly yanking her out of the seat and throwing her across the floor.

How are these things related to each other? Well, start with Christie and the NYT article. I’m thrilled that more people, especially middle-class voters and powerful people are starting to recognize that treatment is so much more important than incarceration. It’s just a little bit devastating that the tipping point was seeing addiction happen to enough white people, and learning to problematize the issue as a human one.

On the other hand, we have this growing shift in the way we handle discipline in schools across this country. It has been out-sourced too often to cops; black and brown children, starting in PRE-SCHOOL, are multiple orders of magnitude more likely to be suspended, kicked out, or arrested; and the school-to-prison pipeline is a very real thing, but most of the kids shuffled through it are children of color. The incident in South Carolina was simply a part of that story.

Uhfortunately, there was a disconcerting racial breakdown in the way so many of us reacted to it. Most of the minorities I knew were horrified; most of the whites I knew were not. They not only said she deserved it, they posited that they would have been content if the officer had treated their children in comparable ways (if they were even able to access enough imagination to see their children in a similar spot). RD, he threw her across the floor. In a way that would have caused protests and sign-carrying outrage if she had been a dog. The mainstream empathy and understanding we are starting to see for drug victims isn’t there for victims of over-policing and discriminatory policing, and that is because the victims are overwhelmingly non-white.

I loved what Christie said here, and I’m thrilled that others on the candiate trail are discussing the issue in the same way. I just despair over the problem of discriminatory law enforcement: cops know better than to treat white people the way they treat us, so it’s hard for me to see things changing.

I wish that policy change wasn’t likely dependant on the failure of so many to put themselves in other parents’ shoes. As encouraging as I find the shift in the way we talk about drugs, it’s a tragedy that it took these stories drifting over the color line to herald a growing consensus over trying a new approach.

#7 Comment By Crprod On November 2, 2015 @ 9:32 am

Will Middle America’s response to drug addiction change if it hits closer to them with prescription pain killer abuse and is no longer easily isolated as a problem of either crack cocaine and ghetto people or methamphetamine and white “trailer trash”?

#8 Comment By Karl Keating On November 2, 2015 @ 9:46 am

It indeed is a moving cli, but there’s an inconsistency.

Christie says that his law-school study partner lost everything because of his addiction to Percocet: wife, kids, house, job, money. Eventually he lost his life.

At one point the man’s wife insisted that Christie and six other study-group friends effect an intervention, which they did. After that, the man was in and out of rehab for ten years.

Yet Christie says that nothing was done for him. What Christie and the other friends did wasn’t nothing, nor was rehab nothing. Christie doesn’t say what else should or could have been done, but by his own account there was more than “nothing.”

#9 Comment By Elijah On November 2, 2015 @ 9:46 am

Christie has real gift for connecting with people in those kinds of town hall venues. He has a real gift for story telling.

Back when he was battling the NJ teacher’s unions, I remember watching a clip of Christie in the opening moments of a talk to a semi-hostile audience:

“I was born to an Irish father and a Sicilian mother, so yeah, I’m used to a certain amount of conflict…”

#10 Comment By MikeCLT On November 2, 2015 @ 9:48 am

I believe NH has some of the the highest heroin addiction rates in the country.

#11 Comment By Mont D. Law On November 2, 2015 @ 10:00 am

Try this.

everything we know about addiction is wrong

[2]

It fits very well with the crunchy-con view of the world.

#12 Comment By panda On November 2, 2015 @ 10:20 am

“I loved what Christie said here, and I’m thrilled that others on the candiate trail are discussing the issue in the same way. I just despair over the problem of discriminatory law enforcement: cops know better than to treat white people the way they treat us, so it’s hard for me to see things changing.

The New York Times story you cited gives the answer to your concerns: once police abuse of teenagers will spread to middle class communities, and it will spread there, we will have presidential candidates speaking in moving terms about how they were assholes in school, and no one physically assaulted them.

Until then, these people need to learn how to obey authority, and our people should keep preparing to fight government tyranny..

#13 Comment By Wax Rhapsodic On November 2, 2015 @ 10:26 am

everything we know about addiction is wrong

[2]

It fits very well with the crunchy-con view of the world.

While the narrative that video spins is intriguing, it seems to me there are many people, like Gov. Christie’s friend, who have happy family lives, good careers and plenty of money, who still manage to throw everything away on drug or alcohol addition.

The argument, it seems, is that addicts are bored. I might find it more persuasive if it argued that the road to addiction is triggered by a kind of spiritual sickness, but even then I find this theory ignores physiology to a dangerous degree.

#14 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 2, 2015 @ 10:52 am

If Bernie Sanders is elected, he would do well to nominate Christie for Secretary of HHS. Obama kind of botched the Lincoln “team of rivals” model — by putting the wrong people in the wrong places.

Yeah, Planned Parenthood might have a problem with a pro-life HHS Sec. But, since no federal funding can be allocated for abortion anyway, and PP gets funding for ordinary Medicaid for other service the feds do fund, I don’t really see a practical problem.

#15 Comment By Thursday On November 2, 2015 @ 10:58 am

Scott Alexander/Yvain on [3].

#16 Comment By Dan On November 2, 2015 @ 11:16 am

Christie also says, however, that states should not be able to legalize marijuana, so he wants to continue the drug war.

#17 Comment By Lancelot Lamar On November 2, 2015 @ 11:29 am

As noted already, Christie’s lawyer friend had all kinds of support and treatment but still ended up dead. I agree that we should treat drug and alcohol abuse using a treatment and not criminal model, but given the poor results and high recidivism of treatment I don’t know that it will make a lot of difference re drug and alcohol abuse. And there will also be the problem of injustice, as in the many cases of drunk drivers who were let off criminal charges to get treatment, and then became drunk drivers again, killing others when they could have been in jail.

#18 Comment By Isidore the Farmer On November 2, 2015 @ 11:38 am

One of the things that makes this challenging is the way drug use and addiction often intersects with other activities most everyone would favor criminalizing (and possibly even jailing).

I don’t think someone who is addicted to drugs but does not exhibit criminal behavior of any other sort (they are not stealing, assaulting people, selling drugs to kids, etc.) should be thrown into general population. But I also think we underestimate (some may even deny) the role human desire plays into drug use, making it hard for medical intervention to have high success rates.

Once someone becomes a habitual user it creates a lot of heartache for a lot of people. It’s one of the sadder things to observe.

#19 Comment By Charles Cosimano On November 2, 2015 @ 11:49 am

The dreadful incident with the schoolgirl reminds of gathering where a black Chicago cop was telling her stories and said, “If did anything like that on the Gold Coast they would kick my ass out of the department in a minute.” Another friend, who was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune (who the cop had never met and had no idea who he was) could not stand it any more and shook her hand saying, “X, reporter.”

I never saw anyone that dark turn that white before or since. She was out of there very fast.

It was a miracle to behold.

Obviously the enforcement method of dealing with drugs and addiction does not work. Actually it does not work for much of anything else it seems but especially for this.

#20 Comment By Bill On November 2, 2015 @ 11:55 am

“Christie says nobody said, “Well, she deserved it, let’s not give her chemotherapy.’ ”

>>At least not to his or her face.

Second, there is a point to be made, however. “Give” her chemotherapy? No–she did contribute or cause her condition through her smoking. But if “give” means “allow her to purchase on her own,” of course she should be allowed to buy chemotherapy. Odds are, she paid into a privately owned insurance program that accounted for, or should have accounted for, the likelihood that the addict is going to cost the pool more money in care for all sorts of things in addition to the addiction itself.

Use drugs (or alcohol)? Be my guest as long as the proverbial fist stops short of my nose. But be prepared to accept all the consequences of those actions yourself when you choose that activity.

#21 Comment By b. rational On November 2, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

Rod: “If the next president is a Republican, I hope he or she finds something important for Chris Christie to do in the administration.”

Are you kidding me?

Have you looked at New Jersey lately?

The politics here are so corrupt they make Louisiana look like a model of good governance(Port Authority, anyone?), not to mention the *nine* credit downgrades NJ has sustained under Christie’s administration.

Just because it seems like it’s a miracle any time one of the Republican candidates for president says something remotely rational, that doesn’t make it an argument for putting that candidate in charge of anything important.

#22 Comment By Sam M On November 2, 2015 @ 12:46 pm

PS: Also, we act like the treatment model is the picture of empathy. It often is not. Ever watch Intervention, that show on cable? I know that’s not the end all and be all, but it’s interesting that it often requires the responsible people in the family to hang the user out to dry. In a way I am note sure “society” is ready to do. We will not give you money to eat. We will not provide you with shelter. We will not socialize with you, or for any other reason be in a room with you unless you enter treatment today. We will actively work to take your children from you.

Is that the treatment model Christie has in mind? Because that might get some support. But it’s worth noting that this approach is way LESS empathic than what we currently do.

Seriously. That model says no food stamps. No government assistance in housing. No benefits of any kind. Die on the street for all we care. Until you enter treatment, you get nothing from us. Not a penny.

Is that where we are headed? I bet not. Because anytime someone mentions a drug test to qualify for public benefits, the racism charge follows soon thereafter.

So. This treatment model. It offers people certain rights. Which responsibilities go along with it?

#23 Comment By panda On November 2, 2015 @ 12:59 pm

“Second, there is a point to be made, however. “Give” her chemotherapy? No–she did contribute or cause her condition through her smoking. But if “give” means “allow her to purchase on her own,” of course she should be allowed to buy chemotherapy. Odds are, she paid into a privately owned insurance program that accounted for, or should have accounted for, the likelihood that the addict is going to cost the pool more money in care for all sorts of things in addition to the addiction itself.

Shorter Bill: poor people should die like dogs.

#24 Comment By steve On November 2, 2015 @ 1:16 pm

He says it well, and for that he should get credit, but if he was a left of center politician saying these things it would not be remarkable. Everyone on the left knows that pro-life ends with conception for lots of, maybe most, people on the right. (Also, Christie is wrong when he says that no one says don’t give those people chemo. There are also plenty of people, largely on the right end of the spectrum, who would also say she deserved to die because she smoked.)

Steve

#25 Comment By EngineerScotty On November 2, 2015 @ 1:37 pm

Obama kind of botched the Lincoln “team of rivals” model — by putting the wrong people in the wrong places.

Of course, Lincoln botched it too, in his choice of running mate…

Perhaps this is unfair to Christie–but I’m going to chalk this one up to the stopped clock being right twice a day. He’s right, of course–but then again, he’s also the candidate who most loudly proclaims that were he to be elected President, federal marshals and DEA agents will immediately stream into OR, WA, and CO to put an end to the legal (per state law) marijuana trade there. Perhaps that is pandering to the Tea Party (who distrust Christie), but still, it rather runs counter to the narrative in this anecdote.

#26 Comment By Imissbuckley On November 2, 2015 @ 1:50 pm

I agree it was a powerful talk. However, I can’t really take Christie’s claims of supporting drug reform seriously when he talks of shutting down the legal regulatory regimes for cannabis in CO, AK, OR, WA, and D.C. (and maybe more by 2017).

Would he force those states that have legalized to reverse course and instead force all cannabis users into rehabilitation clinics?

What about California that just de-felonized most drug possession? What about the states that have harsh criminal penalties for minor drug possession? Would he encourage them to embrace a more compassionate approach or does he only plan to bring the federal government into states that have been too “liberal” or “libertarian” on drug policy?

What would be the price tag for a one size fits all federal drug policy plan look like? Would it be cheaper than our current War on Drugs?

Until I hear answers for these questions I will remain skeptical of Christie’s “new compassionate” approach to drug reform.

I’d rather rather he endorse federalism on this issue.

1. De-schedule cannabis and allow for research on other drug substances by doctors and scientists. Then allow them to make their own findings with out political pressure pushing them in either policy direction.

2. Allow the states to experiment with their own policies with little interference. Unless those states take draconian drug policy measures that violate their citizens’ 4th,5th,6th,8th (etc.) Amendment rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment at the state level.

If he were to embrace the first option alone we’d know he’s serious about drug policy reform. Until then this shows me he’s not serious: [4]

#27 Comment By HalSF On November 2, 2015 @ 2:12 pm

It’s surreal to read, out of the threadbare list of praise-worthy things to say about Chris Christie, that his drug policy is a good thing. As Dan notes, Christie vowed to re-declare war on marijuana, promised to crush cannabis legalization and decriminalization in the states, and relishes to prospect of flooding the legal system with a new wave of non-violent drug offenders. He might transfer some of the Drug War loot from incarceration and prison to mandatory rehab treatment for pot “addicts,” but the effects would be equally pernicious and destructive, not to mention weirdly vindictive. (Take that, E Street Band dopers!) There’s always a whiff of thuggery in Christie’s In-your-face, plain-talking, no-nonsense town hall bluntness.

I’d be impressed and grateful is Christie followed through and devoted himself to drug-policy reform and sanity after he leaves office, but I absolutely do not trust this man with power.

#28 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 2, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

Of course, Lincoln botched it too, in his choice of running mate…

In those days, Scotty, presidential candidates didn’t get to choose their running mates. They weren’t even at the convention, and their operatives didn’t have a lot of influence over the matter. Nothing was really wrong with Hannibal Hamlin, Lincoln’s first veep, but the party delegates wanted a southern Unionist on the ticket in 1864 for obvious reasons, and Lincoln heard about it after the fact — not that he was surprised.

#29 Comment By cecelia On November 2, 2015 @ 2:43 pm

yes it is a fine speech – but now let your brain kick back in and notice that Christie has done zip for drug law reform in NJ. Note that the pension fund millions of police, firefighters and teacher rely on is going to go bankrupt because Christie stopped making the state contributions. Note the economic shambles that one of the former most prosperous states is in. Then tell me you would put this guy in charge of anything?

#30 Comment By Eric Todd On November 2, 2015 @ 3:55 pm

I agree with him. But he seems a bit hypocritical.

I don’t understand his opposition to legalising marijuana or other drugs. Ok, great, use the bully pulpit to speak out against drugs and use government to reform, not lock up, drug abusers. But being pro-life also should mean respecting individuals enough to allow them to make their own, informed choices, as long as they don’t hurt others.

#31 Comment By Venice On November 2, 2015 @ 4:39 pm

It’s a great video, and Christie is a great speaker. I agree with much of what he says, but the problem is more difficult than many people realize. Have you ever tried to make an addict go to rehab? It ain’t easy. The people who need it the most are the most resistant. So it’s all fine to say “we need to get them treatment” but what do you do when they refuse to go, or worse, when they start sneaking drugs into the facility? What you need is a place where you can FORCE people to go, where they can’t get drugs, and where they have no choice but to get better. The problem is that this is a lot like jail.
Not to say that drug courts and other programs don’t do good. They do. But less than 10% of the addicts in the criminal justice system are responsive to that sort of thing. And even in many of those cases, the programs only work because people want to stay out of jail. Take away that stick and you have a problem, because the usual carrots aren’t going to work.

#32 Comment By ARM On November 2, 2015 @ 5:28 pm

“The most terrifying thing is that we don’t know what works. Quite often nothing does.”

This is also true of chemotherapy in many cases, so I think his point still stands.

#33 Comment By CatherineNY On November 2, 2015 @ 9:53 pm

Christie is so much smarter than the other candidates. I would support him for president in a heartbeat.

#34 Comment By pale rider On November 2, 2015 @ 11:07 pm

Someone above mentioned this article, but it bears mentioning again and linking. An important piece of the broader context.

[5]

Drugs, alcohol, suicide. A plague.

#35 Comment By John On November 3, 2015 @ 1:53 am

Christie is a powerful speaker, but there is a disconnect between the human story he tells and any government action.

Christie’s story does not prove any point about government. His prosperous and well-educated friend was not able to save his own life, despite having spent time in rehab.

His friend did not die because there was no help available. He had available to him all the help that money could buy. And he tried to use it.

I support government assistance for addicts, but there is no lesson for government programs in that particular tragedy.

#36 Comment By Baldwin 5 On November 3, 2015 @ 11:58 am

One of Christie’s good political buddies is governor Hogan of Maryland, who also strongly supports drug treatment. Someone in his family (brother?) was and addict.

#37 Comment By ADL On November 3, 2015 @ 1:49 pm

Sen Mike Lee pushing for criminal justice reform, Christie the former prosecutor pulling hear strings over drug addiction…what gives??

These people don’t believe a word they utter and never utter anything without prior polling. So does this mean that GOP voters are going soft on crime? Or are these pols staking out libertarianesque positions for the GOP in contrast to Trump’s right-wing populism?

#38 Comment By Dain On November 3, 2015 @ 4:11 pm

There’s some evidence that for most people drug use is associated with reckless or impromptu sex. (Which it actually is, in the case of uppers anyway.) This doesn’t apply to cigarettes, so perhaps why the American public treats it differently.

#39 Comment By George Donin On November 3, 2015 @ 11:58 pm

@Karl Keating — I think the point of Chris Christie’s story about his attorney friend was not so much about what we should or shouldn’t be doing for others — but rather, that if it could happen to his friend, it could happen to anyone. And that we should be careful about judging someone who falls from grace.

#40 Comment By Gail On January 12, 2017 @ 3:20 pm

If Christie was really so concerned about people with pain issues becoming addicted to narcotics he would not have axed chiropractic and acupuncture coverage from the health care benefits of state employees. One “compassionate” speech does not make him compassionate in action.