DESPITE the consistent efforts of the police and relevant authorities to tackle the drug problem, Malaysia has seen a steady increase in both drug trafficking and usage alike. Is there any way out of the war against drugs?
History tells us that the war against drugs started in 1930 with Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the United States Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
He played on racial sentiments and burgeoning immigrant issues to initiate a gruesome crackdown on drug users in the US.
Nevertheless, drug usage has increased steadily in the US, causing taxpayers, innocent people and users to bear the brunt of a drug war that has lasted for 93 years.
Contrary to popular belief, the main cause of drug addiction is not chemical dependence but rather childhood trauma and social isolation. Everyone agrees that cigarette smoking is one of the strongest addictions; it is ranked on the pharmaceutical addictiveness scale alongside heroin and cocaine. And we certainly know what the chemical hook in tobacco is – nicotine.
However, the Office of the Surgeon General, which oversees the US Public Health Service (USPHS), has found that just 17.7% of nicotine patch wearers were able to stop smoking. Granted, that is a large number, but what about the remaining 82.3%?
Drug users who experienced childhood traumas (rape, physical abuse or parents’ negligence, for example) fall into that category. Their situation is compounded by a social construct that inherently looks down on them and are reluctant to give second chances.
I applaud Malaysia’s drug policy reform efforts, where Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail wants to introduce a law to decriminalise the possession and use of small quantities of illicit drugs. The abolition of the mandatory death sentence two months ago, and the continuous studies conducted by drug researchers regarding ketum and its potential legalisation all spell a new era in addressing the drug problem in Malaysia.
After all, doesn’t everyone deserve second chances in life?