Substance Use Disorders Exposed in Hunter Biden Trial

During the trial, Biden’s daughter, his ex-wife and his two former girlfriends testified about a man who, despondent over the death of his brother Beau in 2015, began using crack cocaine. Biden described himself as having had “a real addiction.” And in private text messages that were never intended to be shared with strangers in a courtroom or used as evidence against her father, Naomi Biden explained how substance use disorder can put people at risk. ordeal and fraying family ties.

At times, their testimony on Biden was embarrassing and grim. But it was also painfully familiar to millions of families who have personally witnessed a loved one’s desperate battle with addiction. In a recent survey conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 32% of American adults – or more than 80 million people – know someone who has died of an overdose.

Nearly 66% of people surveyed in a 2023 KFF study revealed that they either had personal issues related to substance use or had a close family member struggling.

“It affects almost the majority of American families and when we ask what impact it has had on them, a large portion of them say that addiction issues have impacted their mental health and their family’s financial situation” , Ashley Kirzinger, director of KFF. survey methodology, told US News & World Report last year. “It’s quite surprising to think about the scale of the problem in the (United States).”

This pervasiveness was also evident during jury selection for Biden’s trial.

During questioning by U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, potential jurors were asked whether substance use disorder had impacted their lives. They responded with difficult stories of lost friends and family, wasted opportunities, illegal activities, prison sentences, and pain management that resulted in opioid addiction.

Speaking about a nephew and brother-in-law’s struggles with substance use disorders, one man was so upset Noreika reportedly told him: ‘I can say this is a very emotional thing for you . I know it’s difficult and I’m really sorry,” said a reporter in the courtroom.

There are two takeaways here. First, even among a diverse group of about 60 potential jurors, many had experienced the impact of addiction on their families. But it is also important to note that they were willing to discuss it, demonstrating that a painful fact no longer has to be a shameful fact shrouded in silence.

When Nelsan Ellis, best known for his supporting role in HBO’s vampire drama “True Blood,” died in 2017, initial reports claimed the 39-year-old actor died of heart failure. A few days later, Emily Gerson Saines, Ellis’ manager, issued a clarification from Ellis’ family: After years of struggling with alcohol and drugs, Ellis succumbed to the complications of alcohol withdrawal.

“Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and was therefore reluctant to talk about it during his life,” the statement said. “His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.”

In his 2021 memoir, “Beautiful Things,” Biden devoted several chapters to his addiction and wrote about how depraved his life was for several years. Perhaps in his openness about his problems, Biden wanted to offer his own caution to readers.

Put aside the common belief that without his politically charged last name, Biden probably wouldn’t have been charged at all and how hypocritical Republicans will now tout the importance of accountability and praise a legal system they called faked for years. . They only believe in the rule of law when it is applied to their political enemies.

But beyond its verdict, this trial should serve as a reminder that no corner or demographic in this country is untouched by the tragedies of substance use disorder — and that includes one of the political families most important in this country.

Renée Graham is a Globe columnist. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Am here @reneeygraham.