WITH the rising number of self-confessed drug users and pushers in Northern Mindanao following the campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte to lessen illegal drugs trade in the country, a mental health expert said proper treatment should be practiced by authorities as “drug addiction is an illness and not a crime.”
Percival Batar, program director of Journey Home Rehabilitation and Wellness, said the government's approach toward drug-dependents is flawed.
"It needs a lot of improvement. Kinahanglan lawom kaayo ang understanding about addiction nga dili unta magpataka ang atong gobyerno og buhat og approaches sa atong mga ka-igsoonan nga nagkasakit ug addiction,” Batar said.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) imposes a massive cleanup of drug pushers and users through its program "Oplan Tokhang" (operation knock and plead) where drug dependents are made to take an oath to stop their illegal drug involvement.
In other parts of the country, a spate of killing among drug users and pushers has also been observed.
The police's approach might produce results, but not “effective, long-lasting results,” Batar said.
"I have no problem with Tokhang campaign, but the treatment approach gayud ko magka-problema. Because you have to understand that addicts are sick people nga angay tabangan ug tagaan og chance," Batar said.
Also a recovering drug addict himself, Batar said scare tactic and humiliation won't be effective since drug addiction is a mental, physical, and spiritual disease that needs a proper program.
"Scaring them is not a solution. Zero percent ang recovery rate ni-ana because ang naa sa ilang huna-huna ang kahadlok man. Siguro mo-effect siya for two years pero it will eventually come back. Fear will not make you stay in recovery, wanting it will. You have to really want it," Batar said.
"I am a recovering drug addict so kung gipatay ko kaniadto because I made so many mistakes, like gapanghilabot sad ko sa among pamilya, gapangawat sad ko, ga-binuang sad ko sa akong mga amigo, daghan sad ang akong amigo nga gipang kawatan, so nadaut sad ang akong spirituality. Kung gipatay ko, wala unta unta ko karon nag-trabaho ug rehab and be able to help others."
Should imprisonment be deemed necessary, Batar said an addiction program should be established citing the United States of America's practice where drug-dependents face jail but undergo treatment inside the prison cell at the same time.
However, Batar said for this to happen, the government must address the immediate need for rehab centers or mental health practitioners especially in provinces.
"Kulang gihapon ta ug rehab facility, and kung naa man gani, dili gihapon mga state-of-the-art ang mga equipment needed or kung dili man gani, wala kaayo atiman ug napabayaan sila," he said. (with reports from Jamaranda, Rangkal/MSU-Marawi interns)