Fighting use of illicit drugs is a worldwide battle that has had few victories. In the United States, decades ago, then President Ronald Reagan declared a “war on drugs,” which according to most proved to be a failure. In fact, new drugs have emerged since the 1980s.
Should drug use be regarded as a crime, and punished with the intent to deter others from doing the same? Or should addiction be regarded as a disease and treatment offered? There are those who argue that the criminalization of “softer” drugs such as marijuana is not only ineffective, but creates criminality and a black market. As a result, several western countries have moved toward decriminalization. There are just as many critics, however, arguing that marijuana is a “gateway” drug and will endanger youth by setting the stage for harder drug use.
Are illegal drug users criminals or victims? What is the best way to approach the problem of illicit drug use? As the world does not appear to know the answer to these questions, I do not presume to know, either. I do feel that a measure of compassion should be shown to those who are addicted and funding should be put into treatment programs. Aside from that, however, I see one point of clarity that shines above the ambiguities of the whole global drug problem — the fact that dealers and peddlers, at any rate, must be prosecuted.
During the past four months, 24 million illegal amphetamines have been seized in Saudi Arabia. Amphetamines, or “uppers,” have some legitimate, legal uses. For example, a form of amphetamine is used to treat hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders. For most people, however, they have the opposite effect, masking tiredness for extensive periods of time, causing dizziness, blurred vision and, in extreme cases, a hallucinatory or psychotic state. Particularly when used by young people, they can have dire, long-term effects on physical and mental health. Pharmaceutical companies produce amphetamines at relatively low costs due to which they are highly accessible and are flooding the black market.
They are also accessible to gangs of various descriptions. Addiction to amphetamines, as well as other drugs, is a form of control that these unconscionable individuals and groups can have over others. By controlling their supply of the drugs on which they depend, dealers and the gangs that fund them can control behavior and command loyalty. And in these already dangerous times, when the infiltration of terrorist movements is an acute concern, providing and controlling illicit drugs is just one more powerful tool at the disposal of terrorists.
I don’t believe the world, let alone our country, has any easy answers to the problem of drug abuse and addiction. I hope that those with addiction will be treated with compassion and will be able to access treatment. This should not muddy the issue, however, with regard to dealers. If we are experiencing the start of a growing drug problem, as evidence suggests we may be, forming tough laws against such unscrupulous elements is a necessary step.