During a contentious, argumentative debate, one moment stood out for many: During a conversation about his son Hunter Biden’s prior drug use, former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden took a moment to look at the camera and acknowledge his son’s struggles in a way that advocates say can reduce the stigma around drug use.
During an attack on Biden’s son, Donald J. Trump said that Hunter was “thrown out of the military” and “dishonorably discharged” for “cocaine use.” Hunter was discharged from the Navy Reserve in February 2014 after failing a drug test in 2013; however, it was an administrative discharge, not a dishonorable one.
“My son, like a lot of people at home, had a drug problem,” Biden said, speaking directly into the camera. “He’s overtaking it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son.”
Dr. Sarah Wakeman, an addiction medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the medical director for the hospital’s substance use disorders initiative, called Biden’s commentary a “powerful message.”
“I think it was great to see Biden talk about his son with pride and really send the message to everyone who’s listening that substance use disorder is not something that families should be ashamed about or that people should be ashamed about, that this is something we can talk about, that this is a health condition,” she said. “To hear that declared nationally was a powerful message.”
“Reducing stigma, changing the way that we talk about it, changing the perception of people who have a substance use disorder, is the foundation of saving many, many lives,” said Gary Mendell, the chief executive officer of Shatterproof, a national nonprofit organization based in Connecticut focusing on reversing the addiction crisis in the U.S.
“Words matter,” Mendell said.
On social media, many who are in recovery or whose families have been touched by addiction said they appreciated Biden’s response.
Biden looking directly into the camera to say how proud he is of his son in recovery is the kind of clip that might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things — but for anyone who loves one of the 20 million Americans with substance use disorders, wow oh wow what a moment.
— Amanda Litman (@amandalitman) September 30, 2020
“Biden looking directly into the camera to say how proud he is of his son in recovery is the kind of clip that might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things — but for anyone who loves one of the 20 million Americans with substance use disorders, wow oh wow what a moment,” wrote author Amanda Litman.
According to survey data collected by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 20.3 million Americans dealt with addiction, also known as substance use disorder, in 2018.
Litman’s post garnered hundreds of comments, with many sharing their own personal experiences with substance use disorder.
My adult daughter is one of them.