Let me introduce Victoria, a 24-year-old woman, who was forced to resign from her company despite her sincere hard work over 2 years that she had worked for the organisation. Victoria had been in rehabilitation for consuming drugs in her early teens and had recovered. The forced resignation plunged her into misery and dejection and she had no family and good friends to turn to. For weeks she struggled but caved in when she didn’t find a shoulder to cry on. Months later, she was found dead due to overdose.
This is not the story of Victoria alone. According to the United Nations office on drugs and crime, this is the story of 35 million people in the world currently, facing the problem of drug addiction. The menace of drug addiction has only grown by leaps and bounds. Drugs have found their way into schools, and college campuses and it has become a part and parcel of fun time for the youth. Peer pressure is what makes the young ones fall into this torrid pit of addiction. It begins as a recreational activity to give you a high, escape reality, and find moments of euphoria and ecstasy.
American psychology association says recreational drug use can lead to serious changes in the brain and can also cause other medical problems like heart disease, cancer and even death. But what have authorities and administrators done to stop or control this addictive menace? The simple way out is to punish them and stigmatise them. They are considered outcasts and delinquents. In some societies in the world, they resorted to mambo-jumbo often leading to fatal results. Resorting to such methods only traumatised the addicts and worsened the case.
The possession and use of recreational drugs is prohibited by the American federal law. There are strict penalties for drug convictions, including mandatory prison terms
According to a series of experiments done in the 20th century, when you give a rat a bottle with water and the other one laced with heroin or cocaine, the rat will almost always prefer the drugged water. Although, Professor Bruce Alexander, psychologist at Simon Fraser University, built a rat park, which in other terms is heaven for rats. In Rat Park, they almost never use the drug water. From almost a hundred percent overdose to when they are alone in the cage to zero per cent overdose when they are happy. This is ample proof that being in the company of people or sources of human contact can beat the power of drugs.
Can we, therefore, conclude that people become addicted because they want to? The rat experiment suggests that people without family and friends find no other source of joy and no other manner to find solace but to turn to drugs to give them that temporary sense of euphoria.
Instead of demonizing, penalizing and blaming addicts for their condition, we should help and support them when they need it more than ever.
Most of us have read about the situation in Portugal from 369 overdoses in 1999 to 30 in 2016. The drastic reduction in drug addiction is due to change in drug policies and laws in the country. The drug laws in Portugal incline towards education and rehabilitation. Things like “Just say No” have been abandoned and they treat it like a social and health problem, rather than a crime.
Imagine a world that shifts from a rat cage to a rat park, where the demand for drug use reduces significantly. We all want to help drug addicts to save them from a life of misery. We all want a shift in drug laws and policies all across the globe.
Astoundingly, 1.4 billion pounds is spent annually enforcing drug laws in England. Additionally, there are more expenses, including prisons, courts and probations. With decriminalisation, some of this money could be funnelled into drug rehabs, treatments and education surrounding addiction.
Rather than disconnecting drug addicts from society, we should empathise with them and show compassion. More importantly, we should reconnect them with society so future generations don’t suffer a fate like Victoria.