Pubdate: Sat, 19 Sep 2015
Source: Jakarta Post (Indonesia)
Copyright: The Jakarta Post
Author: Sudirman Nasir
Note: The writer is a lecturer and researcher at the School of Public 
Health at Hasanuddin University in Makassar, South Sulawesi. His 
thesis is on drug use in Indonesia, written for his PhD at the School 
of Population and Global Health, the University of Melbourne, Australia.


The newly inaugurated National Narcotics Agency (BNN) chief Comr. 
Gen. Budi Waseso continues to make controversy. Soon after his 
inauguration, Budi said that he would review all laws related to 
drugs. He even said that he would send all drug users to prison, 
instead of making them undergo rehabilitation programs as mandated by 
the current law on narcotics.

Budi also claimed that fighting drugs should include reviewing 
related laws, since imperfect regulations were an obstacle for BNN in 
performing its duties. Budi announced that he would propose a 
revision to Law No. 35/2009 on Narcotics, especially Article 54, 
which states that social and medical rehabilitation must be provided 
to drug addicts and victims of drug abuse.

Activists, researchers and politicians swiftly criticized Budi's 
controversial statements. The Commission for Missing Person and 
Victims of Violence (Kontras) for example warned that Budi would 
implement policies based on his chances of continuing to make headlines.

Lawmaker Bambang Soesatyo said that the revision of the Narcotics Law 
as proposed by Budi, that would put users behind bars rather than 
rehabilitating them, could create more new drug dealers.

Budi's stance toward the issue of drugs is typical among numerous 
high ranking officers in Indonesia. Why are those officers so 
obsessed with the punitive "war on drugs" approach to narcotics law 
enforcement, including imprisoning or even giving the death sentence 
to drug dealers? Why is it so hard to persuade people (including the 
highly educated) and decision makers about the need to deal with drug 
issues using the available research?

The answer may relate to the tendency of a tough, punitive and 
militaristic drug policy to look more heroic and macho than a 
rational or evidence-based approach.

The tendency to act and look heroic and macho is appealing, but also 
hinders people's capacity to think deeply and to look at evidence 
more carefully.

In addition, the "war on drugs" allows people to simplify the complex 
nature of drug dealing and drug use. This allows people to think that 
tough laws alone are a magic bullet or panacea that can deal with all 
drug-related problems once and forever. This simplistic view is of 
course a myth built on unrealistic optimism.

Rigorous research in the form of published articles in peer review 
academic journals in several disciplines such as criminology and 
public health demonstrate that the "war on drugs" approach is not working.

This widespread simplistic way of thinking about drug issues is a 
challenge for researchers to find ways to better communicate their 
evidence-based methods.

It will take a long time to convince the wider public and decision 
makers about the shortcomings of the "war on drugs" and the benefits 
of a rational approach to drug issues.

There are ways to overcome these facile tendencies such as by more 
effective communication or providing real-life stories about the 
complex nature of drug use and dependence. These include explaining 
the different levels of drug use such as experimental use, regular 
use but not yet addicted and problematic drug use, those dependent on 
drugs who suffer from the various consequences of their drug consumption.

We should explain better that transition from experimental use to 
problematic use is not linear but frequently more complex.

Moreover, we should provide more "good stories" about the success of 
people who were addicted to drugs but managed to reduce or quit their 
dependence through various supports, such as medical and social rehabilitation.

Of course we should tell the story of the complex nature of managing 
drug dependence and the frequent relapse experience by those who try to quit.

We hope these detailed and nuanced descriptions may gradually 
transform people's perspective on drug issues from one that is 
linear, simplistic and black and white, to something more complex.

A change that we hope will facilitate the understanding that drug use 
is a complex phenomenon that requires concerted efforts to mitigate.

This includes, but is not limited to, supply reduction programs 
through law enforcement (that requires a clean legal system and legal 
process), demand reduction programs through continuous and creative 
educational programs to teach people (particularly young people) 
about different types and risks of drugs and prevention efforts.

These efforts should also include harm reduction programs for those 
already dependent on drugs or consume drugs regularly. These kinds of 
comprehensive and smart programs are more beneficial than the heroic 
and macho, but simplistic "war on drugs" approach.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom