• Does Prohibition or Drug Control Really Work?

    Draining liquor during prohibition

    Draining liquor during prohibition

    Drugs are a big concern not only in the UAE, where we live, but in the rest of the world as well.

    The term Drugs, with an initial capital letter, obviously refers to Drugs of Abuse, Substances of Abuse – which include Alcohol, Hashish, opium, cannabis, LSD, Crystal Meth, etc.

    A short list of drugs of abuse and their dependency rates

    A short list of drugs of abuse and their dependency rates

    The Drug Menace is eating away our youth. This is a world-wide phenomenon, and a major reason for drug-trafficking, for the existence of a Narcotics Squad, and so on. That’s a whole big chapter and it has it’s own vocabulary. Naturally, as young parents, we are all very concerned: our teen-aged kids are vulnerable, and we would not like them to be exposed to this menace. The authorities in the UAE are very vigilant, and there are strict rules, and as everybody knows, these are strictly implemented. The efforts by the UAE government in this are indeed laudable. Here is a link to the Abu Dhabi govt website which provides comprehensive information on the subject.

    Government efforts for Prevention and treatment of Drug Abuse:

    Abu Dhabi Police has a dedicated section for combating drugs.The UAE Ministry of Health provides a comprehensive directory on the measures to be taken when dealing with drugs in general. The National Rehabilitation Center: focuses on providing excellent services in the area of prevention, treatment and rehabilitation from addiction of alcohol and drugs. The Poison and Drug Information Center in the Abu Dhabi Health Authority focuses on providing the latest information about drugs, promoting the safe use of medicines, and protecting the society and professionals from poisoning.

    The Center serves to provide the latest poison and drug information, promoting safe medication use and poison prevention.

    The Center serves to provide the latest poison and drug information, promoting safe medication use and poison prevention.

    Remember prohibition - it still does not work!

    Remember prohibition – it still does not work!

     

    Prohibition simply forces the activity to go underground

    What everybody does not know is that strict implementation usually sends the activity underground; this has been the experience world-wide, including in India. This experimentation has been going on, especially with alcohol. In Gujarat, Prohibition of Liquor has been in force since 1947 without a break, but the ground reality is that liquor is available more or less freely; there is more underground trade in the item than in most other States, more money can be made out of it, and so on. Prohibition has been in force in Andhra Pradesh, a state in India,  from time to time, changing with governments; the effect has been that people have had access to it freely at times, and at other times they have resorted to smuggling it across the borders, making a lot of money in the process. When it has been freely available, the incidence of serious alcohol-related diseases have been there for us to visualize in a large scale, both at individual and at social levels.

    Prohibition allows criminals to make a lot of non - taxable income

    Prohibition allows criminals to make a lot of non – taxable income

    So, both as a doctor, and as someone who looks at society in general, I have mixed ideas about prohibition. Let us look at the experience of North European countries (Scandinavian countries) which believe that such things like alcohol, drugs, sexual preferences etc cannot be curbed by prohibition, but would be more difficult to control if we were to implement such laws. They have tried to allow lax rules, while trying to put some sort of control on them at the same time. The result, as far as I can make it, has been that the people indulge in these activities at their leisure, and those of them who have had enough or too much of it, tire of it, and then chose more spiritual pursuits. Either way, it is a matter of choice.
    Most people go through a phase in their lives when they want to experiment with things, enjoy the good life, hang-out with friends, fit-in with the crowd and do what their friends are doing. They are most vulnerable to getting addicted to substances of abuse at such times. After this, some of them are able to get over these addictions – by various means – either sheer will power or through assistance.
    But a good number of such people are not able to – and crave for the drugs; and there is a huge market for these drugs. We want to keep such people away from drugs – but would it help if the drugs were made difficult to obtain? The experience so far has been that for those with strong cravings, this is hardly a deterrent: they simply have to pay more – and leads them to penury and dissolution faster.
    In my opinion, the experience in countries where prohibition is applied strictly has been mixed at best; but a major disadvantage is that these activities then become more difficult to control.
    Is legalizing drugs the right solution?

    Is legalizing drugs the right solution?

    What is the philosophy behind legalizing these activities?

    Material cravings are a part and parcel of our mental make-up; a majority of us gain some modicum of control over this as we grow older. But for those caught in the grips of a strong addiction, does it help to merely make it more difficult to get these drugs?
    By artificially creating a demand-supply gap are we not increasing the suffering?
    So, in short, I am in favor of the methodology adopted by the Scandinavian countries as a little bit more enlightened one; maybe it needs further modification or evolution, that’s all.

    Even important medicines become controlled or unavailable

    Another down-side of such strong control of drugs is that any drug used as medicine, but which is known to have sedative side-effect, and therefore, on that basis considered to have abuse-potential, is kept on control list, then becomes difficult to obtain, and this is a serious concern for us for some really sick patients. I will write about this in a different blog; it would be comical, were it not for the lethal or near-lethal consequences.
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