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"War on Drugs": Does it work?

 

posted by Focused on October 5, 2009 @ 4:35 pm in HEALTH

 

The narcotics trade has had devastating effects on society. From the human decay embodied by so many addicts to the violence that frequently accompanies narco-trafficking, we have many reasons to be concerned as a community. It is hard to think of a country that does not have to deal with this problem today. The magnitude of the narcotics problem is such that many governments (such as the US) and security forces have embarked on a “war on drugs”. While the term hints towards a determination to eradicate the epidemic, one has to wonder if it is the most thorough approach.

 

Although narcotics have no place in society, one should realize that the current way of dealing with illicit drugs only treats the symptoms and not the causes. Most government policies, including zero-tolerance policies, simply imply that anybody caught possessing or dealing illegal drugs will be charged, prosecuted and eventually sentenced. Part of this is logical as one should expect to face the consequences of breaking the law. However, the problem solving is incomplete if authorities end the process at this step. Prevention is even more important than repression. One should look at the reasons why the trade thrives in the first place.

 

In economic terms, narco-trafficking basically follows the principles of supply and demand. Supply is their to meet the demand. The increasingly high (addiction ensures that demand does not drop) demand for an illegal product makes its trade lucrative for any supplier. From a sociological point of view, illegal drug dealing still thrives today because we live in a society that does not want to face itself.  The quick fix appears to be the order of the day. What exactly does this mean?

 

Many people use drugs as a way to escape from their reality and, more importantly, to self-medicate. In the event of minor physical pains such as headaches and coughs, most people know which solution to turn to. When a person is experiencing emotional pains, a holistic solution might appear to be less appealing to that person. Treating emotional pain involves acknowledging that one is feeling pain and that one needs help. This is where denial can play a critical role in a person’s resorting to the use of drugs.

 

Depending on his or her coping mechanisms, a person in denial might use drugs to fill his or her emotional void as the ‘high’ effect can cause that person to feel whole for a temporary period of time. In order to prevent this cycle from repeating itself, people need to raise questions. What makes a person’s emotional pain so strong that he or she would resort to dangerous drugs to numb it? One should seriously think about this as the current methods of tackling the illegal drug trade seem to be failing.

 

Locking away drug offenders for long periods of time does not seem to work as an efficient measure. As far as the addicts are concerned, inmates still manage to have drugs smuggled into prisons. As far as dealers are concerned, a high number of them return to selling drugs when they are released. In worse cases, high-ranking dealers conduct their operations from inside the prison walls. In addition to that, new dealers replace the incarcerated ones on the streets instantly. Fear of imprisonment not a strong deterrent.

 

Some will argue that decriminalizing drugs that are currently illegal would reduce the drug problem. Many claim that legalization would cause profits to drop, consequently reducing the violence involved with the fight to control the lucrative trade. This is part of a solution but it does not solve the problem that is the addiction mechanism. Addiction causes an addict to keep seeking a stronger drug, at some point what the addict wants will be something stronger than the legal limit. This inevitably makes way for an underground market. One should also remember that an illegal trade of prescription drugs already exists.

 

I believe that prevention is the foundation of any initiative that seeks to protect a community against the illegal drug trade. More effort should be put into understanding the causes of an addiction as that is what drives demand. Once demand has been reduced, supplying something becomes less attractive. In addition to thorough prevention work being done, emphasis should also be put on sensitizing people to the destructive effects of drugs on communities. A way of doing that would be to have a setup where convicted drug dealers would be have to meet current or former drug addicts and their families to see extent to which drug use has negatively affected their life.

 

On the other hand, addicts convicted for drug possession would have to undergo thorough treatment including counseling while in prison. While points of view surrounding the illegal drug trade differ, nobody can deny the fact that solving the problem is of the greatest urgency.

 

 

 

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Tags : Drugs, law enforcement, government policy, substance abuse, treatment
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