Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Editorial: Reconnecting drug addicts

(SunStar Davao graphics)

ATENEO de Davao University's Center Against Illegal Drugs (Addu-CAID) reported that of the profiled 1,747 drug users who underwent treatment, 89 have relapsed or returned to drug use. Seventy-two have returned to the use of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) and 17 went back to using marijuana.

According to the center, among the factors that drove them back to the use of illegal drugs are peer pressure and depression.

Sadly, the recent report of Addu-CAID shows a sad reality in the war against illegal drugs -- the lack of the participation of families and close friends.

Those who underwent drug rehabilitation go back to their family and friends but will have a hard time reconnecting with them.

Philippine society can be toxic when it comes to drug addicts. It is quite common to hear among family and friends murmuring about someone who has a drug addiction or recovering from one.

However, it might be these family and friends who might also be pressuring those recovering from addiction to relapse. That isolation and being shunned upon could drive them back to the use of drugs.

Johann Hari, in his Ted Talk, said human beings have a natural and innate need to bond.

"When we are happy and healthy, we would bond and connect with each other but if you can't do that because you are traumatized, isolated, or beaten down in life you would bond with something that would give you a sense of relief," he said.

Hari added, "Almost everywhere we treat addicts to some degree...that we punish them, we shame them; we give them criminal records; we put barriers between them from reconnecting."

He cited Portugal as an example of a country that effectively fought drugs. In 2001, Portugal implemented a drug policy where it decriminalizes all drugs and allocated funds to reconnect drug addicts to the society instead of cutting them off. The country had programs on job creation and microloans for drug addicts.

"The goal was to give drug addicts a reason to get out every morning... As they rediscover purpose, they rediscovered bonds and relationships with the wider society," Hari said.

He ended the talk pointing out that to effectively fight addiction, a connection or bond with someone is needed for an addict.

"I think the core of the message -- you are not alone, we love -- has to be at every level of how we respond to addicts, socially, politically, and individually," Hari said.

Though there are still a lot to consider with Hari's recommendation on responding to addicts like to whom do these addicts can reconnect to, the Philippine government and its partners might want to restrategize its war against drugs.

It might want to invest more on strengthening the foundations of communities, schools, churches, and especially the families on responding to drug addicts.

The government must provide a better avenue for the family and friends to help their loved ones who are addicts.

A lot have been arrested for illegal drugs but is arresting them really the solution? Portugal implemented an effective policy against drugs. It might be time for the government to look into or even copy the Portugal’s policy.

This may also lead to a less bloody fight against drugs and may foster a more productive society.

"The opposite of addiciton is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection," Hari said.


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