war on drugs has been declared, commencing in Shanghai and the same getting reinforced in April 2016 in the United Nations. Every year a new theme is given and this year it is ‘Health for Justice, Justice for Health’. The question is, how far have we succeeded, in case we have?
The phenomenon of ‘addiction’ has spread across the globe like a pandemic, and it has been a tough challenge to be dealt with because the more organised a crime is, the difficult it gets to be controlled and like it or not, drug abuse and trafficking are pretty organised in their form. There have been ample policies and penalties in different countries, which are of different levels of intensity depending upon the country’s way of dealing with it, such as in Malaysia, where it is death penalty for keeping drugs, or in Bangladesh, one could be sentenced to death for carrying, trading, storing or processing yaba weighing over five grams. But despite all these stringent regulations, things have not been so bright, and it has been established that no one country can tackle it on its own, be it the USA or Bangladesh!
Partly, system failure is attributed to the fact that the whole subject has been very mercurial from the beginning. We still debate whether it is a ‘disease’ or a failure of one’s coping mechanism. Irrespective of what it is, one cannot refute its ‘biopsychosocial’ nature. The term was coined in the 1970s and has been revered as the most diplomatic word invented ever. But still one can see that it is, what it is.
The fact is that everything and everyone matters. Starting from the childhood experiences which play an instrumental role in the development of individual coping strategies and sense of coherence, to the peer pressure in adolescence which brings in a new sense of autonomy and independence promoting risk-taking behaviours with lack of insight and inability of weighing consequences, to academic demands, sudden responsibility of playing multiple roles at multiple places, to lack of good social support system and the list is endless, all of this works its way through to drugs. Things are made easier when one’s personality is addictive.
So, where does one start? Charity begins at home, they say. ‘Optimism bias’, a cognitive bias that causes someone to believe that they are less likely to experience a negative event, needs to be dealt with because it can happen to anyone.
It is highly advisable to be observant about signals that your loved one might be sending and you, out of sheer optimism bias and ignorance are missing out on them. Family support can be really helpful to restrict this problem to the preliminary stage when it is easy to be tackled. After all, prevention is better than cure, any day!
Dr Sat Parkash is a drug rehab specialist and the Director of Prottoy Medical Clinic Ltd., Dhaka.