A drug is any substance (except for food and water) which, when taken into the body, alters the body’s function either physically and/or psychologically. Drugs may be legal (e.g. alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco) or illegal (e.g. cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin). Drug abuse is rife in many countries. Billions of dollars are spent internationally preventing drug use, treating addicts, and fighting drug-related crime. Although drugs threaten many societies, their effects can also be combated successfully.
Public health problem
Drugs continue to be one of the greatest problems for public health. Although the consumption of some substances has declined over time, new drugs have entered the market and become popular. In the USA, after the crack epidemic, which was the surge of cocaine crack in major cities in the 80s and early 90s, and the surge of methamphetamine, in the 90s and early 21st century, there is currently a prescription opioid crisis. The number of casualties from these opioids, largely bought in pharmacies, has overtaken the combined deaths from cocaine and heroin overdose. There are millions of addicts to these substances which are usually prescribed by a doctor. This is a relevant twist to the problem of drugs because it shows that legalization or criminalization may not always bring the desire solution to the problem of drug consumption. On the other hand, there is also evidence of success in reducing drug abuse through legal reform. This is the case of the Portuguese decriminalization of drug use, which has shown a dramatic decrease in drug-related crime, overdoses, and HIV infections.
History of the prohibition of drugs
There are legal recreational drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, and other recreational drugs which are prohibited. The history of the prohibition of drugs is long. Islamic Sharia law, which dates back to the 7th century, banned some intoxicating substances, including alcohol. Opium consumption was later prohibited in China and Thailand. The Pharmacy Act 1868 in the United Kingdom was the first modern law in Europe regulating drug use. This law prohibited the distribution of poison and drugs and in particular opium and derivates. Gradually other Western countries introduced laws to limit the use of opiates. For instance in San Francisco smoking opium was banned in 1875 and Australia, opium sale was prohibited in 1905. In the early 20th century, several countries such as Canada, Finland, Norway, the US, and Russia, introduced alcohol prohibitions. These alcohol prohibitions were unsuccessful and lifted later on. Drug prohibitions were strengthened around the world from the 1960s onward. The US was one of the main proponents of a strong stance against drugs, in particular since Richad Nixon declared the “War on Drugs.” The “War on Drugs” did not produce the results expected. The demand for drugs grew as well as the number of addicts. Since production and distribution were illegal, criminals took over its supply. Handing control of the drug trade to organized criminals has had disastrous consequences across the globe. Today, drug laws diverge widely across countries. Some countries have softer regulation and devote fewer resources to control drug trafficking, while in other countries the criminalization of drugs can entail very dire sentences. Thus while in some countries recreational drug use has been decriminalized, in others drug trafficking is punished with life or death sentences.
Should drugs be legalized?
In many Western countries, drug policies are considered ineffective and decriminalization of drugs has become a trend. Many experts have provided evidence on why drugs should be legal. One reason for the legalization of recreational drug use is that the majority of addicts are not criminals and should not be treated as such but helped in other ways. The criminalization of drug users contributes to generating divides in our societies. The “War on Drugs” held by the governments of countries such as the USA, Mexico, Colombia, and Indonesia, created much harm to society. Drug-related crimes have not always declined after a more intolerant government stance on drugs. Prohibition and crime are often seen as correlated. There is also evidence of successful partial decriminalization in Canada, Switzerland, Portugal, and Uruguay. Other countries such as Ireland seem to be following a similar path.
Drug addiction is not a crime, however an issue relating to the psyche of an individual and his societal ambience. One of the primary reasons is a lack of self-confidence. Besides, people get drug-addicted due to professional pressure, lack of inspiration, excessive stress, or lack of parental care when it comes to teenagers. When it comes to stress, people who have just moved to a new city or begun their college journey tend to try to eliminate stress with the help of substances. It always seems easier to handle stress and all possible life changes through the use of drugs than facing real life and dealing with it. Unfortunately, trying illegal drugs can eventually lead to a strong and even lifelong addiction.
Further, Social pressure is one of the reasons for the people to incline towards drugs. They face multiple obstacles, trying to grow in this humungous world with peer pressure, in subsistence, for all age groups. However, the reality is that you can’t always see it. Many youngsters find it hard to handle the pressure, as a result, find a hiding cave in drugs and begin to drink alcohol, use drugs, and smoke in order not to feel isolated and become a part of whatever company they find. Usually, sharing this intoxicated moment with friends can be something that bonds young people. Deriving pleasure from using drugs in a company can provide young people with a strong sense of belongingness with a particular group. This makes them feel special in a certain way.
At the same time, post-traumatic stress is the other major reason why people decide to use drugs. Over 75% of individuals who suffered from any psychological trauma use drugs to forget the horrible moments that have been experienced. This, in turn, becomes a self-destructive behavior that presents even greater challenges. The reason being, drugs affect the human mind. In general, when a person tries to recall something, the mind quickly brings out this or that piece of information. However, when a person is under the influence of drugs, memory is blurred and has a lot of blank spots. For that reason, any effort to get information in this mess becomes a struggle. Drugs make one feel silly or slow and become the main cause of many failures in everyday life. As a result, the more failures one has, the harder it gets. Eventually, you only want more drugs to resolve all the problems.
But despite it all, it is not because of heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, or methamphetamines that people die today. Antidepressants, opioids, and depressants turn out to be responsible for more overdose deaths among people all over the globe. Here, we look at some of the effects of drug use on society and suggests some solutions to the problem.
Drug abuse causes multiple problems for countries and communities. The medical and psychological effects are very obvious. Addicts cannot function as normal members of society. They neglect or abuse their families, and eventually require expensive treatment or hospitalization.
Along with this, drugs is also breeding ground for numerous crimes. However, the menace of drugs can be fought. Education is the most significant weapon. Children need to be told at home and in school about drugs. People need to be aware of the effects so that they can make avoid this problem Secondly, to increase police manpower and powers to stop dealers and to enforce the law.
However, the main target should be the victims, who are not criminals instead patients requiring treating and support. Families and counselors need to talk to children and people at risk. Parents need to look at their children and help them to become responsible. Jobs are needed to give people a role in society.
In conclusion, although the problem of drugs may seem impossible to eliminate, there are concrete steps that can be taken to weaken the hold of drugs on society. The danger of drugs is too great to ignore. We must act now to save our society.
Name – Shubhangi
College name – ICFAI University, Dehradun