Like most wars being fought around the world, the global war on drugs seems to be a never-ending battle. Across the world, governments and law enforcement agencies have devised multiple strategies to combat the growing drug crisis, but to no avail. From the suburbs of the United States to the farms of Punjab in India, the easy availability of drugs is scary. While our politicians spout rhetoric and bicker over-complicated legislations with poor track records, we must understand the ground reality. An assistant professor at Northeastern University, Leo Beletsky, went as far as to describe the rising number of overdose cases as a ‘major public health crisis’ and it is hard to disagree with his stand.
In the recent past, we have seen monumental growth in the number of heroin overdoses as the drug becomes more prevalent on the streets. From its outset, the Al Qaeda terrorist organisation used Afghan grown ‘poppy’ to trade and raise funds. The ‘resin’ from the poppy was taken out and is a key ingredient of heroin. As with almost any addictive substance, a legal ban didn’t result in the drug disappearing from the surface of the earth. In fact, it just resulted in trade moving to the black market. However, these terrorist organisations are far from the only contributing factor to the erstwhile crisis.
In addition to this explicit abuse of infamous ‘hard drugs’, the issue has now transcended into prescription medication. The opioid crisis, worsened by a combination of exploitative pharmaceutical companies and irresponsible physicians, is also taking hundreds of lives. The origins of the prescription addiction crisis lie in the 1990s when pharma companies assured the public that their pain relievers were not addictive. This, of course, was a lie. However, with Big Pharma being one of the largest contributors to campaign funding, the accountability has been sorely lacking.
While the State must play a leading role in any effort to alleviate the crisis, the buck does not stop there. As responsible citizens, we must hold those responsible accountable. Simultaneously, there must be an increase in the number and quality of rehabilitation services as this is the only way to save people stuck in the vicious cycle of drug abuse. On the individual level, raising awareness, even in our immediate surroundings, is a good place to begin. The threat of the drug crisis is very real and we must act now before it’s too late.