The Daily Star published an opinion piece titled “Drug abuse must be treated as a public health issue, not a war” on October 31. As a psychiatrist, my reaction is as follows.
There was a time when people used to explain drug addiction on the basis of moral theory which considers the habit as a crime rather than a health issue. With the advancement of brain research, it has been proven that addiction is related to a pathology of brain circuits. American Psychiatrist Association (APA) named it “Substance Use Disorder” in its diagnostic manual (DSM5), essentially defining drug addiction as a disease.
Yet, Bangladesh's Central De-addiction Centre is under the ministry of home affairs, not the health ministry, which in my view is the expression of insufficient knowledge on part of policymakers regarding the issue. Law enforcement agencies should deal with illegal drug traders instead of addicted users.
Mental health literacy reduces the vulnerability to develop drug dependence. Such education should be provided in schools.
The issue of drug addiction should be dealt with through the ministry of health. We should meticulously handle the situation in light of relevant scientific evidence rather than replicating illogical, inhumane and counterproductive interventions to solve the crisis.
Md Saleh Uddin, Assistant Professor, BSMMU