The drug scourge

There is no need for the International Anti-Drugs Day to enhance public awareness of this social scourge – a description which is a truism, but a justified one. A daily ordeal for drug addicts and their families, and a nightmare from the future for many others, the narcotics industry is thriving in a world that lives off its own flesh. At the same time, drug use is one of the most relentless forms of global terror that leaves millions of parents emotionally exhausted every year, forcing them to view public spaces – such as schools, squares, bars, and concert halls – with suspicion and to look for security in the iron clutch of a strong, repressive state. There is endless talk about what government policy should be on addictive substances, the role of rehabilitation centers, detoxification programs, methadone, soft and hard drugs. A report in today’s Kathimerini shifts the attention to another, less discussed but still vital parameter of the problem: the reaction of a family that feels the earth moving under its feet as it discovers that tragedy has hit home. It is always easy, and cost-free, for outsiders to criticize or offer advise. It is far more difficult, even for experts who have devoted their lives to supporting users, to helping shocked parents get back on their feet, avoiding a knee-jerk reaction: the cruelty of a father who throws his child out of the house or the misplaced support which permits everything without offering any genuine help. But the main problem, according to experts, is the sense of guilt that burdens the families of drug users which leads them to isolate themselves from the public as they try to hide the problem and hide from others – like in the time of the lepers or tuberculars. This tendency toward isolation may result from the pressure of an extremely competitive environment that interprets a social problem as a personal failure. It may also be an expression of a our national inclination to turn a blind eye to a plethora of problems that surround us; corruption, nepotism, political and business entanglement, the squandering of public wealth. But when the youth sees the shame in the eyes of his or her own parents – notwithstanding their love and affection – they lose the last lifeline out of the drug quicksand: self-respect. Greek society and responsible officials must help addicts and their families tear down the wall of hypocrisy and, in the light of day, fight their battle against social fascism that criminalizes the victim, alienates the sick man and punishes pain.