Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Drugs - addiction … calling on Homo Sapiens
One has to only Google the issue of drug addiction to confirm an incredibly depressing reality. For instance Read …
Most countries in the World are in a death grip of what must be recognized as an international pandemic. Drug use and addiction has a strangle hold on the world, is strengthening its grip and causing death and human suffering of now unimaginable proportions.
Millions of mostly young people are dying, with death coming as a welcome relief for many; such are the truly awful effects of drug addiction. This is apart from the problems of social dysfunction, involving anything from theft to prostitution and child abuse.
Here is the rub. By and large we are treating the pandemic as an inconvenient truth that needs to be ignored.  We are in a state of collective denialism.
You see if another country were to attack South Africa, and kill just a fraction of the people that drug addiction does, the whole country would be up in arms, all State resources would be amassed and we would fight to the death.
However, as regards this cruel enemy within, we shrug our shoulders, look the other way and all, but a few valiant souls, contribute to what is a deafening silence and inaction.
What crass hypocrisy to earn ourselves “brownie points” with the now ever so fashionable anti smoking lobby whilst ignoring the devil himself!
At a guess, one must conclude that the reason for this paralysis is steeped in ignorance and frustration as to a solution.
There is a solution; and it is a fairly obvious one. However, in order to just get it, like the first step in rehabilitation of an addict, we need to admit our shared culture of denialism as the first step in rehabilitating our thinking.
The solution is, in fact, blindingly obvious. It has two components – 1. Education and 2. Decriminalization.
1. Education
I spent my earliest years nurtured by a grandmother and Roman Catholic nuns. In its first formative years a child is all ears. It internalizes everything it sees, hears and feels. In my book[1] I explain that had the nuns asked me to be a suicide bomber I would have gladly done it without blinking. In addition I explain that, in later life, there were certain things I simply could not do, on account of this early “brainwashing”. Now I did not do too badly; going from starting life in an orphanage for Coloureds, in a racist society, to ending up as a judge of the High Court in two different countries.
Surely it is blindingly obvious that we must sensitize, indoctrinate, brainwash (whatever you want to call it) children about the dangers of drug use at their most impressionable and receptive stage. Surely?
We are not doing it. Can we please just do it!
2. Decriminalization.
This one is contentious, with a plethora of convenient thinking blocking truth. Mention decriminalization and there are many who quite understandable experience a “panic attack” and reason flies out of the window.
Therefore, I will start with indisputable real life circumstance and fact. Facts are awkward things.
I was brought up in Rhodesia. It was racially segregated.  Coloureds lived in suburbs designated for Coloureds. There were White and Black police officers – but no Coloureds.
So, in our areas we could do pretty much what we liked. Police only arrived when sent for by us. As a result, drug use (cannabis sativa) was an option open to, and adopted, by a proportion of our community. It really was no big deal.
Here is the rub. Drug addiction did not assume pandemic proportions. It was no big deal. The social harm accruing was but a fraction of what alcohol abuse induced.
There can be not the slightest doubt that the main reason for this was the legendary quality of Rhodesian teachers, as discriminatory as the education system was. In the result, the attitude of the “educated and informed” majority kept the problem in check.
So, our Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) Coloured model/experience makes a telling argument. It is not all surprising that, in the United Kingdom, a police chief is also joining in this call.
"After several scientific experts have recently put forth their view with regards to decriminalizing drug use, Tim Hollis, a senior UK police official has also joined hands with the scientists and has voiced his opinion about decriminalizing personal use of drugs such as cannabis. In addition, both PM David Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg are said to be questioning the effectiveness of Britain’s drug policies."  Read ...
In addition, there is the very big problem of organized crime. For goodness sake, the whole World knows that the reason why organized crime became established and America has the Mafia was prohibition, i.e., the vain attempt to criminalize the drinking of alcohol. It is a no brainer!
Incomprehensibly we deny the lesson learnt; and stubbornly refuse to apply it as regards drug use. We do this despite the fact that the lesson continues to prove itself as we lose the battle to organized crime, more drug use, more deaths, and more untold human misery.
It is mind boggling! Before our eyes we see, not only the direct consequences of addiction, but also the infinite boost given to organized crime whose tentacles then reach out to make our lives a misery in so many other ways.
As long as drugs are illegal drug lords and other crime bosses are guaranteed multi billionaire status and many of us are killed and maimed in the process. What hope do we have if they have the money to buy off the police, judges and politicians?
This is not theory. In South Africa we need only remind ourselves of who Jackie Selibi is and why he has been sentenced to prison. What is the point of Lead SA calling on us to be good boys and girls and leaving the crime bosses in a position to bribe the head of Interpol?
In addition our quality of life is reduced as disposable income is hit hard by taxes extracted to fund a war that everyone knows is unwinnable!
My over 30 years of judicial experience confirms that arresting and charging kids who “try using’ guarantees a rich supply of more users and members of deviant subcultures to organized crime. Thus, our criminal justice system actually supports the criminal underworld.
Despite all this incontrovertible evidence, we seem to be in “donkey mode” about the issue and bent on maintaining this idiotic status quo.
WOW!… did someone say we are Homo Sapiens as a species? Did we really go to the moon as early as 20 July 1969? Surely we should know better ... much better ... surely?
In this culture of denialism, we demean ourselves and continue to destroy the very fabric of our society.
So can we please muster the considerable expertise and talents we have as a country and do the obvious.
Effects of the strategy:
It would be naïve to claim that decriminalizing drug use will solve the problem immediately. Like fixing one’s golf swing, things may even get worse before they get better.
Critical is that the strategy must include a comprehensive drug addiction management model. South Africa already has the basic infrastructure and expertise for this on account of the sterling work that is already being done at so many rehab centers and by so many good people.
Here are the keys to the suggested strategy:
a)      It will not be an event, but a process.
b)      A key is that the stigma of being a user is removed. We have the analogy of HIV/AIDS victims don’t we? Like drug addicts their problem is largely self inflicted but they are not condemned. They are encouraged to admit their status and, in return, receive support.
c)      Concomitantly the allure, mystic and "forbidden fruit" attraction of an illicit sub-culture product evaporates overnight. Criminologists will confirm that this has enormous benefits.
d)      An overnight gain of gargantuan proportions is that control of drugs is taken away from drug lords and organized crime is dealt a massive blow. Multi billion Rand income evaporates overnight.
e)      Current addicts are then managed on the same basis as other addicts, e.g., alcohol and gambling.
f)       Discouragement and education starts, and this is critical, as soon as children start learning. So the whole nation must be committed to this. In this way, formal education is complemented by home and community based schooling on the issue.
In the fullness of time the problem will be beaten. It will be beaten because we will have implemented a strategy that is based on reason, that most precious commodity that, as human beings, we have been blessed with.
Now, if Lead SA really wants to do something for our country … since sadly we seem to have passed up the opportunity to refine, embed and export ubuntu ...
Surely we can do better than just boerewors as a South African innovation?
Is it too much to dream that Africa can actually be an example …?
yes we can
If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right
Henry Ford

[1] “The Other – without fear, favour or prejudice” published online by and


Chris N Greenland said...

Received by email -
Micholene wrote:
"Thank you for this article Uncle Vavie, it is a very sad and terrible reality. I have a friend who works in one of the hospitals here, she says the amount of babies born to drug addicts is unbelievable. From the minute they are born they are already addicted to the drug and cannot survive without it, they have to be given a little bit each day then are slowly weaned off. Some cannot handle not having the drug and die. She says it is just too terrible to see. It is so sad, to think of a precious new baby going through all of that because of its mother. This world is very very sad, its so true, we have to educate our children before its too late."

Micholene Scott Sarris

Helen said...

Brought up in the environment described, my parents thankfully brainwashed us with - respect is what equates happiness/success and honors God.

My advice?? Legalize the damned drugs - Governments have proven to be adept at "messing up"...

Columbo said...

Excellent argument.

I would only add one more dimension. Drug use hurts and kills a very small fraction of users; the war on drugs destabilizes countries, funds criminal organizations, undermines communities, creates fatherless homes, fills up prisons etc etc etc.

Sadly it is a political hot potato, so a sensible end is unlikely in sight....

Ian Samson's Blog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ian Samson's Blog said...

I'm not talking about the effects on young children who need help, I am talking of a sexagenarian with neuropathic disorders that is refractory to conventional analgesics. Cannabis Sativa in itself is not addictive. What is addictive is any other chemical added to it, like Mandrax, Tobacco, etc. Surely the SAPS could take the need for reduced pain into consideration before slamming users on medical grounds into jail for possession of sufficient drug for their personal use? Surely the judicial system has far more serious criminals to deal with than retired people really only wanting to improve their quality of life because conventional therapies have failed? Surely a medical doctor could prescribe a reasonable quantity of CS or CI for that purpose to show SAPS or others that it is being used for a legitimate purpose? It's time everyone woke up. There have been reports everywhere that there are ZERO deaths from Cannabis use, whereas 5-million people annually die from cigarette-smoking related illnesses? Who in their right mind wants to get involved with organised crime? I don't! I just want relief from my pain without resorting to suicide because of some antediluvian draconian law that prevents possession of Cannabis. Hey world, wake up!

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