rugs are more than just another social problem. Their use permeates all levels of society. Students numb themselves with cannabis
; teenagers experiment with heroin
and LSD; neighbours and co-workers often struggle through life with debilitating drug or alcohol addictions.
European Commission surveys show that drug use and crime top the lists of fears of the general public.
Western Europe is the second largest market for illicit drugs after North America. Further, according to the European Commission’s Director-General for Justice and Home Affairs, of the estimated 1.5 million problem drug users within the EU, half to three quarters of them are injecting drugs. Each year, EU member states report 7,000 to 9,000 drug-related deaths, although the real figure is likely much higher.
And what of drug rehabilitation? Since the 1950s the field has been virtually monopolised by psychiatry. Its once-promised cures include a long list of failures such as lobotomies, insulin shock, psychoanalysis and LSD. Their most recent contributions are the methadone maintenance programme or the use of “controlled” doses of heroin itself — a sleight of hand in which addicts are pronounced “cured” by being switched to a substitute drug with the same addicting powers as heroin, or by being given small doses of heroin itself, the person becoming totally dependent on the government or local psychiatrist for his or her “fix”. It admits that the prospect of curing drug addiction is permanently beyond the reach of psychiatry.
The drug epidemic’s most devastating impact falls upon its prime target: our youth. According to the 2003 Annual Report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, drug use among young people has risen steadily throughout the 15 EU states over the past decade.
Nor is the problem limited to illicit drugs. The effects of medical and psychiatric drugs, whether painkillers, tranquillisers or “anti-depressants,” can be as disastrous.
From 1991 to 2001, global sales of anti-depressants rose tenfold, to more than €13.4 billion.
Not only are these drugs physically debilitating, they hamper mental ability and spiritual growth. They disrupt families. They breed criminality. They destroy lives. And they make people dependent on the source of the drugs they are addicted to.
Is this just the way things are?
Or can something be done about it?