THE WAR ON DRUGS IS 'LOST'
One of the biggest problems faced by governments is drug addiction and the crime it brings with it.
The tactics used by the US and many European governments to tackle this problem are similar to those used in military battles and is based on prohibition. Unfortunately, prohibition does not seem to be improving the situation.
Former Interpol chief Raymond Kendall has admitted that drug prohibition has failed - in fact he claimed that it has made things worse. In an article in French newspaper Le Monde, Kendall declared the war on drugs lost and said that enforcement policies had failed to protect the world from drugs. The only effective solution was "harm reduction". In 2008, the UN drug conventions policy renewal will take place and Kendall called for Europe to take the lead in a reform policy that has never been seen before.
The UN convention states that all countries are obliged to pursue growers, dealers and users in an attempt to hold back an unstoppable tide.
Prohibition leads to an increase in crime and while most countries believe that an increase in drug seizures is a sign of success, it might mean that more drugs are available on the market at a cheaper price.
According to Time magazine, the revenue from opium grown in Afghanistan this year is $30 billion. Ninety-five per cent of the crop is destined for Europe and it is the source of most of the heroin arriving in Britain. For addicts to support their costly habit, they turn to crime.
After a lifetime fighting drugs, Kendall admitted that the war on drugs is not having any effect any more. He suggested "medicalising" drugs instead of criminalising them. Doctors will prescribe "pharmaceutical opiates" to the addicts which, he said, will reduce overdose deaths by 80 per cent, as well as see a "sharp cut in the delinquency rates of drug addicts".
Many people are concerned about the drug problem in Malta. Only recently, Health Minister Louis Deguara said that around 140,000 syringes had been distributed to drug abusers in local health centres between January and August 2004. Several people disagree with this service, believing that providing free syringes actually sustains the drug addicts, and call for their distribution to be stopped. However, it is important to note that the free syringes are actually a form of harm reduction. In this way addicts will no longer share needles and thus reduce the risk of infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.
Medical students working at the Substance Misuse Out-Patients Unit (Detox
Centre) are overwhelmed by the desperate situation of drug addicts, and medical staff explain that the success rate is measured by the amount of successful harm reduction rather than total rehabilitation. If an addict manages to reduce the daily dose or take less frequently then it is considered a success.
Drug addiction is usually a symptom of a deeper problem. Many addicts come from difficult backgrounds and drugs become a way of life or are seen as the only way out of their situation. Of course, this is not the only reason why people turn to drugs but unfortunately it is the reason why many do.