Decriminalising addiction will help
THE FATAL stabbing of a loving father, a family man and an ANC councillor by his young teenage son is a tragedy because this could have been avoided if we reviewed our policy on substance abuse and crimes related to it a long time back.
The Ellen Pakkies story, where she took the life of her child in a fit of insanity, caused by her drug addict son’s incessant violent demands on her for money to feed his addiction, has not helped one bit to force the policy makers of this country to review the policy on drug addiction.
It is a great pity that the formulating and overseeing of the country’s drug policy is solely in the hands of the Department of Social Development. As far back as 2012, the World Health Organisation declared that drug addiction was a disease like hypertension and diabetes. They strongly urged member countries to decriminalise addiction. The health ministers of the Southern African Development Community decided to decriminalise addiction, so I fail to see why our country is dragging its heels on this.
Portugal led the way in 2001, much to the surprise of other EU states, when it decriminalised addiction because of its huge heroin addiction problem. They had about 100 000 known heroin addicts. Portugal decided to send addicts, via the law, into rehabilitation centres and put them on opioid replacement therapy. With this approach, Portugal reduced the number of addicts on heroin by 50% in a matter of 10 years.
Canada adopted the policy of offering heroin users clean needles to contain the spread of hepatitis B and C, and HIV. At the clinics, addicts were exposed to literature that offered help to users who wanted to end their addiction. Addicts felt comfortable in these clinics because they were user-friendly and very supportive. A number of them used the services to give up their addiction.
Many other countries have decriminalised addiction since Portugal’s success.
In Portugal and in New Zealand, substance users with less than five fixes are taken in a firm but friendly way to detox centres by the police.
This approach saves the country enormous sums of money by avoiding the judiciary. Anyone with more than five fixes is regarded as a dealer and is dealt with by the law.
Prisons are not places for addicts because this is where they get inducted into gangs.
Ideally substance users who are aggressive and refuse to seek help should be sent by force via the courts into rehab. Contrary to what some psychiatrists believe, that addicts can think, in my experience, addicts cannot think rationally when it comes to giving up their addiction no matter how intelligent they are.
When this young teenager stabbed his father, he was desperate for his drug or was under the influence of drugs.
In that state, he did not see his dad as his dad but as a hurdle to get his fix.
Many young teenage gangsters can kill over six rivals in a space of one year. This is only possible when they are under the influence of drugs like tik, amphetamine and cocaine. Under the influence of these drugs, they become totally blunt emotionally.
When these gangsters end up in jail, they experience severe flashbacks in their sleep and are filled with remorse in a sober state.
Several approaches to various government departments to review the policy have proved futile over the past 10 years. I sincerely hope that this tragedy will force them to get all stakeholders involved in the formulation of a drug policy for this country. We need the public to put pressure on the government to address our drug policy as a matter of urgency before we read about more gruesome deaths of parents by their drug addict children due to a lack of a proper policy to protect them.
When he stabbed his father, he was desperate for his drug
MBBS; FCFP; DCH; DMH: Naep (Dip) MBA
WRITE TO US
STASH: Constable Meagan Ross places a “tik lollie” used for smoking tik at a drug den in Woodlands. The writer is urging the government to review SA’s policy on drug addiction.