De­crim­i­nal­is­ing ad­dic­tion will help

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - DR E V Rapiti

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



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.

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