Working for over twenty years helping drug dependents recover from abuse and addiction in a rehabilitation sanctuary for young people using chemical substances, I learned that they are not criminals but in need of medical help and intervention.
PUBLISHED ONDec 2016
Drug abuse is a health issue. The most common answer given by the youth when asked why they began substance abuse is “to forget my problems.” But behind those answers, I learned about the causes and the nature of those problems they try to forget by substance use.
Substance abuse is trying to change bad feelings with chemicals. Millions of adults and young people are using alcohol, a legal drug to “forget their problems.” We need to be compassionate and caring of the substance user, not take a punitive approach of condemnation and punishment.
The use of substances ought not to be a criminal offense but a medical health issue. Those who use chemical substances need and deserve treatment, care and rehabilitation – not death penalty.
The suppliers, dealers and traffickers of the illegal drugs are the people who need investigation and legal action under the rule of law. They provide a quick, painkiller “solution” for youth encouraging them to turn to chemical solutions to solve emotional and personal problems rather than seeking human help, understanding, care and support.
The most important thing that we have to understand is that substance abuse is not just about illegal drugs. It is also about legal prescription of drugs, alcohol and tobacco addiction – all of which can and do kill. There is nothing more painful or saddening than a cigarette smoker with lung cancer or someone dying of an overdose at concerts and parties, for example.
Some people use drugs and substance for recreational purposes as if absorption of the dangerous chemicals into the human body was not harmful but helpful and heavenly. So the economic forces that are campaigning to make some drugs, such as cannabis, legal are promoting them as harmless and playing down the dangerous health risk and ignoring that fact.
The causes of youth turning to chemical remedies to “forget problems” can be a dysfunctional family, an alcoholic abusive father, an uncaring mother, sexual abuse in childhood, separation of parents, being a school dropout, the loss of dignity and status, abandonment, abuse in an orphanage, unbearable poverty and misery in a slum, or the painful breakup of a boy–girl relationship. Street youth and children are usually users of cheap chemical inhalers like industrial glue.
For other young people, the problem is having a misunderstanding and arguments with unloving, busy neglectful parents who do not give good example, and don’t inspire and encourage their children. These are all causes that lead young people to suffer depression, causing them to leave home and finding a substitute “family” on the street or a peer group “gang.”
What can be done to help these young people deal with the problems and not resort to chemicals? The first step is to find a caring and understanding adult who has an experience in counseling and listening to the young, enabling them to bring out and express all their problems. Counseling and recovery centers should come to their rescue.
The troubled-youth need “a friendly trusting shoulder to cry on.” It is the holding in of their problems and having no one to listen with understanding that cause so much stress and anxiety for the youth – and adults, too. These drive them to drugs, alcohol or other escapist addictions.
In a therapy and recovery center, the youth can overcome drug dependence and find themselves, and be empowered to have self-control and find a meaning to life. This can be accelerated and achieved through an emotional release therapy, a procedure where the young get professional help to express themselves fully and openly. Family reconciliation is the next most important step to return to a normal life.