Lots to learn on ad­dic­tion

CAPE

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

IT WAS highly dis­ap­point­ing and in­deed sad to read coun­cil­lor Yagyah Adams’s sug­ges­tion that drug ad­dicts should be crim­i­nalised (“Get tougher on ad­dicts”, Week­end Ar­gus, July 13) as a way to com­bat the scourge and pro­tect so­ci­ety from them.

What makes it so sad is that the sug­ges­tion comes from a coun­cil­lor who ought to have ac­quainted him­self about this dread­ful, puz­zling dis­ease be­fore go­ing to the press with his reck­less sug­ges­tion.

Peo­ple found in pos­ses­sion of il­le­gal drugs au­to­mat­i­cally get a crim­i­nal record, ex­cept for the ju­ve­niles, who are first-time of­fend­ers. In­car­cer­a­tion does not stop users’ ad­dic­tion be­cause ad­dic­tion is so pow­er­ful that it leads to a high rate of re­cidi­vism among users, who com­mit crimes to feed their habit.

The coun­cil­lor’s tone is stereo­typ­i­cal of that of many peo­ple who re­gard peo­ple on sub­stances as scum. Ad­dicts may be­have like scum and cal­lous an­i­mals but deep down they are hu­man be­ings strug­gling with a painful and com­plex dis­ease, which has de­fied mod­ern science in find­ing a cure.

The other com­mon myth men­tioned by peo­ple with lit­tle knowl­edge about ad­dic­tion is that ad­dicts have choices. This view is so crass that it needs ad­dress­ing. Any­one in­tro­duced to any drug or mind-al­ter­ing sub­stance does not choose ad­dic­tion but chooses the drug for its mind-al­ter­ing ef­fects. Th­ese mind- al­ter­ing sub­stances, in­clud­ing cig­a­rettes, cannabis and al­co­hol are pre­sented as won­der drugs that would send you into a state of in­stant bliss with one hit. Not once is it men­tioned to prospec­tive users that one drink, one hit or one puff is enough send them down the dread­ful and painful road of ad­dic­tion.

Once an in­di­vid­ual be­comes ad­dicted, the dam­age is done. Ad­dicts have no choice once they are ad­dicted be­cause ad­dic­tion is a dis­ease, be­yond the con­trol of most users. One hit leads to the thou­sands and it never stops.

Once in­di­vid­u­als are deep into their ad­dic­tion, they reach a time when ad­dic­tion is no longer fun, it is a daily curse and a painful men­tal prison with­out keys.

Suc­cess­ful re­cov­ery from ad­dic­tion is only pos­si­ble when ad­dicts be­come to­tally fed up with their ad­dic­tion; sin­cerely ad­mit that they need help and are fully com­mit­ted to fol­low a pro­gramme for re­cov­ery.

There are no drugs to cure ad­dic­tion. Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tres and pris­ons do not work if in­di­vid­u­als are not will­ing to take the help they are given.

Of all the help avail­able to ad­dicts, the best help for users to re­cover is to­tal un­con­di­tional love. I wish to sa­lute the mothers who made tremen­dous sac­ri­fices and went through great pain and strain in their mar­riages to help their chil­dren re­cover; some mothers have even died of heart at­tacks try­ing to save their chil­dren.

I have heard from sev­eral re­cov­ered users about how in­debted they are to their par­ents, who showed them the love that helped them to re­cover when the rest of their fam­ily and so­ci­ety in gen­eral con­demned them like dogs to die out in the cold.

Let us not for­get chil­dren with un­di­ag­nosed at­ten­tion deficit hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der; post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, bipo­lar dis­or­der and de­pres­sion, who turn to drugs for re­lief, only to end up full-blown ad­dicts with ter­ri­ble crim­i­nal records.

I’d like to ap­peal to read­ers to at­tend sup­port groups to know more about this dis­ease to help peo­ple suf­fer­ing from the con­di­tion and stop be­ing judge­men­tal about them.

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