Rand Paul: ‘If you work all day long, you don’t have time to do heroin’

Updated 6:22 PM EDT, Wed September 2, 2015
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Story highlights

"You know what? If you work all day long, you don't have time to do heroin," Paul said

The Republican presidential candidate frequently argues that more people in America need to be working

(CNN) —  

Rand Paul argued in New Hampshire Wednesday that the heroin epidemic in the United States could be solved in part by putting people back to work.

“People always come up to me and say, ‘We got heroin problems and all these other problems.’ You know what? If you work all day long, you don’t have time to do heroin,” the Kenutcky senator said to applause while holding a meet-and-greet at the Airport Diner in Manchester.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in July that deaths from heroin-related overdoses nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013 in the U.S. And the issue has become a huge topic in New Hampshire, which has especially seen the problem spread – though the state’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country at 3.7%.

The Republican presidential candidate frequently argues that more people in America need to be working, “not as a punishment, as a reward.” He reiterated those sentiments Wednesday, saying the opportunity to work is a fundamental value in the United States.

“We need to attach work to everything. I don’t think any able-bodied person in America should get a penny unless they work. No handouts, no gifts, no welfare. Everything should have work,” Paul said to more applause.

RELATED: Hillary Clinton proposes $10 billion plan to combat drug and alcohol addiction

More work isn’t the only solution Paul has proposed to deal with heroin addiction. Earlier this year, he was part of a bipartisan group of senators that introduced legislation to expand treatment for heroin and drug addiction by allowing specialists and medical professionals to “provide life-saving medication-assisted therapies such as buprenorphine (also called Suboxone),” according to a press release about the bill.

The legislation is similar to part of a proposal announced by Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Wednesday. The Democratic front-runner also called to expand medication-assisted treatment.

Paul acknowledged that some people who suffer debilitating problems can’t work, but he argued there are still opportunities for some of them.

“Now there are people who cannot work. But frankly, if your back hurts, you can work in a call center, all right? There’s a lot of different jobs,” he said. “There are people who are paralyzed, quadriplegic, kidney dialysis, amputees who can’t work. I understand that. There’s going to be some people. But almost everybody who can work should work.”

Later, when talking about the war on drugs, Paul said he supports addressing issues like the heroin epidemic by giving people treatment, rather than jail time.

“We need to treat it more as a health problem and less as an incarceration problem,” Paul said, referring specifically to nonviolent drug users.

Paul got in hot water earlier this year with Democrats when he argued that more than half of people collecting Social Security disability benefits are taking advantage of the system, though he saw a strong response from some voters who agreed with him.

Dave Brisson, a small business owner from Manchester, was at the meet-and-greet and agreed with Paul’s remarks about everyone, including those addicted to heroin, needing to work.

“I think Rand Paul is seemingly the only candidate who’s willing to say the unpopular things, knowing that it’s going to offend people and get other people upset,” Brisson said. “But he says it seemingly because he believes it, and I think there are a lot of Americans that are right in line with that.”

Paul’s four-city stop in New Hampshire on Wednesday wraps up a three-day swing through New England that also included visits to Vermont and Maine.