Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jun 2008
Source: Antigua Sun (Antigua)
Copyright: 2008 SUN Printing & Publishing LTD
Contact:  http://www.antiguasun.com
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/4119
Author: Clarence E. Pilgrim

ILLEGAL DRUGS  A REAL THREAT TO OUR REGION

The Caribbean Community (Caricom) continues to battle the world 
economic forces that has driven-up the cost of living in the region 
and made a reality of negative food challenges, which now exist in 
many households. Despite this phenomenon, the problems created by the 
drug trade still permeate the strata of society and continue to be a 
source of concern for the health, welfare and security of many 
citizens. For example, users of illegal drugs may turn to crime to 
pay for their habit, and this could affect the lives of family 
members, friends and generally other people.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) initiated the 
use of 26 June each year, to observe the International Day against 
Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Many countries will focus on the 
slogan, "Do drugs control your life? Your life. Your community. No 
place for drugs." This year the focus will be on drug cultivation and 
production.

According to the UNODC world report for 2007, "The menace of drug 
trafficking has caught Central America and the Caribbean in a 
crossfire that is jeopardising security and development." It further 
stated that around the world, "Drug addiction is killing millions of 
people every year and creating misery for tens of millions of others. 
The injection of drugs is spreading HIV and hepatitis."

It is interesting to note that even though many people are angered by 
the types and intensity of drug-related criminal and anti-social 
behaviour, there exists side-by-side, a strange fascination which is 
evidenced by the proliferation and glamourisation of one or more 
dimensions of the drug trade in contemporary art, music, video games, 
books, newspapers, etc.

This dubious and "on the edge" mindset cannot continue, hence there 
is the need for a fundamental "mind changing" perspective on how we 
view crime and drug-related "cabals" and activities in all sectors.

This year, Caricom government leaders and civil society, right down 
to the grass roots level, should use 26 June to reflect on the 
institutional machinery and capabilities which presently exist to 
carry-on the fight against this illegal trade. The case must be made 
for a change in the way the message(s) of warning against the drug 
trade are carried.

It must always be remembered  sometimes we seem to forget  that 
drugs are chemicals that can alter the way the body works. Different 
types of drugs produce different effects on the body. Recreational 
drugs such as tobacco and alcohol, although legal, still have 
potentially serious effects on the body.

There is also the danger that prescription drugs, which are made 
available to a patient, by a doctor or bought over the counter, can 
be misused and/or abused.

Illegal drugs include prescription drugs that have been dangerously 
modified and substances that are banned by law.

Because of the altering of the chemical processes in the body, a 
person taking them can become addicted. It makes the user feel that 
he/she has to take the drugs. The tolerance which may be developed by 
the user would cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if he/she stops 
using the drug. The different properties of each drug affect the 
degree of addictive disorder(s) exhibited in each biological system. 
The possibilities of suffering temporary or permanent mental problems 
are very real!

It therefore must be realistically stated that all drugs have the 
potential to damage ones health. Injecting any drug with a needle and 
syringe that someone else has used may lead to a number of infected 
blood diseases.

I wrote in an earlier commentary that "Brain damage is a real danger, 
depending on the drug's strength and character. Drug abuse affects 
the way the brain functions and alters its responses to the 
surrounding environment. Why would anyone want to use a substance 
that acts on the brain to affect behaviour, actions, feelings and 
motivations in an unpredictable manner? .... By interfering with the 
natural brain rhythms, abusers expose themselves to risks they may 
not have even calculated or have an ability to define."

It is estimated worldwide that 200 million people are using drugs 
such as cannabis  marihuana, hashish, ATS-amphetamine, 
methamphetamine, ecstasy, methcathinone, opiates  opium, morphine, 
heroin, synthetic opiates and cocaine. These threats cannot be 
tackled by any one nation alone. They require a multi-lateral 
response. I also indicated in a previous commentary, "The Caribbean 
Community must continue to brace itself for both the onslaught and 
backlash that would result in the deliberate policy of reducing the 
economic base of drugs, which starts with the individual user."

So, when we are asked, "how do we intend to cope with the dangers of 
drugs?", we should be able to say that we are committing ourselves to 
positive action, to bring about the reduction then an eventual 
eradication of this serious scourge. And mean it!

Clarence E. Pilgrim is an enviromentalist, advocate for human rights, 
educator, a senior officer in the Antigua & Barbuda Civil service and 
volunteer for various non-profit organisations.

The above opinions are not necessarily those of the publisher, 
newspaper, its advertisers or employees.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom