On June 26, the UN marked the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The message of the Secretary-General for that day was, “We cannot allow the world’s drug problem to further shadow the lives of the tens of millions of people living through humanitarian crises. On this important day,” he suggested, “let us commit to lifting this shadow once and for all, and giving this issue the attention and action it deserves.” In my opinion, as long as people want to escape from life, and as long as drugs are so accessible, substance abuse and drug addiction will continue to plague humanity.
Life has always been tough. These days, it is even tougher for many, if not most of us. Because drugs are so accessible these days, teenagers and young adults who used to “get away from it all” by drinking or smoking, now do it with drugs, and even hard drugs. It gives them a good high, disconnects their thoughts from the pitfalls of life, and allows them to feel relieved and happy, even if it is transitory and subsequently leads to deeper downs.
Besides, drugs are good business. Too many people in top positions make too much money for the discussion about eliminating drug abuse to be relevant.
By “top positions,” I am not talking about the addicts or the dealers. I am talking about policymakers in positions that pay top dollar, whose job is to decry the plague of drug and substance abuse, and do nothing but maintain their positions.
Like many other top brass, they view their job definition not as a mission to help humanity, but as feeding the cash cow and milking it dry. In the case of drugs, the cow feeds on more addicts, and the milk is the bloated budgets that organizations for “preventing drug abuse” receive in order to perpetuate the problem while pretending to fight it.
This is why, according to the UN’s own statistics, drug sales over the dark web nearly quadrupled between 2011-2020. If there were an intention to eliminate drug abuse, those who are at the top of the system would have long been fired. But since there is no such goal, those people are hailed as heroes and their budgets are bloated even more, to cope with the “escalating” crisis.
If we want to truly deal with the issue of drug abuse, we first need to decide what we want to do with addicts. Do we want them to live, or do we want them to vanish? If it is the latter, authorities must provide them with proper conditions to live out their lives until they are gone. If we cannot convince people that there is more to life than escaping from it, we should at least enable them to escape life with dignity until they are gone.
At the same time, we should make drugs inaccessible, as simple as that. That is, if we are willing to cull the well-paying jobs of those in charge of “fighting” against drug abuse. If we genuinely choose to eliminate drugs, we should eliminate access to them. This is the first step.
Then, we should offer a substitute. Not everyone will want it, but we should nevertheless offer a substitute that can satisfy the need that pushes at least some of the people into drug abuse and other forms of escapism.
The substitute that we should offer drug users is supportive human connections. Just as the veterans from Vietnam, many of whom were heavy drug users while in service, stopped once they returned to their families, we should offer the same feeling to current addicts.
This feeling of family warmth, acceptance, and the knowledge that people care about you, is the ingredient that is being depleted from society at the fastest rate. And without confidence and a sense of security, people will be afraid to face life and will opt for escapism. Human connection is the only antidote to drug abuse. It does not cost a thing, it does not pay top dollar, it has very poor PR, but it works like a charm. Making people feel welcome and safe will make them hooked on life.
Travis Hayes, 65, injects what he says is the synthetic drug fentanyl, across the street from where San Francisco mayor London Breed just held a news conference introducing legislation in curbing the rise of deadly overdoses in the city, at the Tenderloin section of San Francisco, California, U.S., February 27, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton