Substance abuse takes center stage as an election issue

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 5, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


CARLY FIORINA, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I very much hope that I am the only person on this stage who can say this but I know there are millions of Americans out there who will say the same thing. My husband and Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction.

JEB BUSH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Very debilitating when you have a loved one that's struggling and you can't control it. You've got to love them but you also have to make it clear you can't enable the behavior that gets them in trouble.

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A few years ago, Miriam passed away. She had an overdose which the coroner ruled was accidental overdose. But she went to sleep. She had taken bunch of pills. I don't know if she had forgotten which ones she had taken, but she went to sleep and never woke up.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: These stories of addiction, that was Senator Cruz over his half-sister, and you have heard the others, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush. Chris Christie had a viral video from a town hall in New Hampshire that some five and a half million people have viewed now. An important issue, and one in New Hampshire, in particular, it's very important. Take a look at the latest poll from WMUR -- most important problem facing New Hampshire, drug abuse 25 percent. And you look at the rest there, noting this at the same point last year this answer was three percent. We're back with the panel. Judge?

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: I argue that the president has more compelling issues on his plate -- ISIS, the economy, immigration, the borders, than drug addiction and that it should be a local problem. Just because something is national doesn't mean it's federal under the constitution.

I also argue that it is about time that people like Governor Christie who is very, very aggressive against drugs when he was U.S. attorney in New Jersey, has recognized that this is an herb for treatment rather than punishment, which is a lot less expensive and disruptive.

The drug war has been the greatest federal domestic failure since prohibition. If it takes these terrible stories of tragedies like Carly Fiorina's and Ted Cruz's to awaken the public to the fact that these people shouldn't be in jail, that she should be treated as the sick people they are, then good will come from it.

BAIER: Chuck?

CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Look, this phenomenon did not begin -- what we are talking here with opioid overdoses, because drugs were illegal. This began with legal drugs, with prescription medications that were vetted by the FDA, produced in giant factories, and prescribed by doctors, and profits of billions of dollars going to the pharmaceutical industry. That's how we got where we are, not because we were waging war on drugs, but because the entire medical and pharmaceutical establishment of this country was pumping prescription opioids into the society, claiming that they were not addictive and that people would not get into trouble this way. That's how we wound up where we are.

And so it is terrific that these folks are talking about this issue and talking about treatment. But if you want to get at the root of it, you have to prevent it. And the way you prevent it is by cutting dramatically on the over-prescription, on the irresponsible prescription, on the ignorant prescription or the misguided prescription of these opioids.

And there has been tremendous misinformation, much of it promoted by the pharmaceutical industry about the actual properties of these medications, and fortunately, the federal government, yes, has pushed --

NAPOLITANO: We locked up the wrong people.

LANE: We don't lock these people up.

NAPOLITANO: We did. We locked up a generation of people.

LANE: No. Judge, you know as well as I do that the vast majority of people who are imprisoned in this country are not there for using drugs. If they are there for drugs at all it's because of trafficking. It's a myth that we imprison users.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: You go into excruciating pain from a bone issue, for example, you want opioids. The idea that somehow we are going to solve this by eliminating opioids or cutting the supply is ridiculous.

LANE: No, no, it's actually happening now, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: So it is you have to reeducate doctors. It's not that the pharmaceuticals are looking for profits. It is that they are producing a product that you need and it's being misused.

But let me say a word about treating the abusers. Why at the same time, everybody is up in arms about this, the vast majority of those in jail are not users. They are dealers. If this is the great issue it is, and it is, the people you want in jail are the dealers. The overwhelming majority of those who are now being released in the tens of thousands in another wave of fashion, political fashion, all of the sudden we are going to empty the prisons of the drug abusers, meaning the dealers. Many of them plea bargain and end up in jail as users when they actually were dealing. You want to attack the problem, you crackdown the dealers.

LANE: That's right.

NAPOLITANO: I have sentenced over 1,000 people in my career on the bench. I would guess -- criminal cases. I would guess that close to half of them drugs were at the root of it, the use of illegal drugs.

BAIER: I have got to run. But go ahead.

LANE: I wonder if they were convicted of some other crime as opposed to just simple possession of drugs. And 259 million prescriptions for opioids in 2013, that was enough for one bottle for ever for every adult in America. That's clearly excessive.

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