Drugs are bad.
A sentence that has possibly been said countless times up and down the country, possibly in multiple languages all over the world, in an attempt to briefly educate people and hopefully influence the world into not partaking in drug use. The sad reality is that this attempt does not work and it never has, instead many believe it has proved to only cause even more damage. The blunt nature of ‘drugs are bad’ invites the public to question why, and invites many to argue that they have personally found no issue with drugs, which for those who know what they are doing may be true. But finding this information on how to actually use drugs safely like these people claim to do can be incredibly difficult due to the silent nature of the ‘drugs are bad’ policy that is fed to the nations, and this is why some argue this policy makes drug related issues worse.
Many claim that the negative stigma around drug use along with the policies absence of information on use leads to more people doing drugs in secret without proper knowledge on what they are taking, leading to drug related overdoses and obtaining drugs that aren't completely pure due to the sources they are forced to obtain them from. So is information and support the way forward in the war on drugs?
The answer may be yes, however with the current outlook on drugs it can be difficult for users to come forward and admit that they use or have a problem with substance abuse without having stereotypes and abuse thrown at them. This is where support comes in, it is becoming increasingly apparent that countries and cities with higher tolerance and better support programmes for users have the least amount of drug issues that grew due to lack of information.
A good example of acceptance and support of drug users are the ‘fix centres’ that have started to appear across the globe. These centres are places that provide drug users with a safe place to use with clean equipment in the hopes of lessening drug related deaths due to overdose or diseases through shared equipment. Users of the centres usually have to sign in and out and are observed at all times, the objective being that in the rare event of an overdose they are in a clean environment where an ambulance will be called promptly though staff try to avoid these incidents completely. The aim of these centres are to promote awareness and safety rather than to push its visitors straight into treatment programmes. Understanding that the help people need isn't always being forced to quit a substance immediately.
A completely different approach is Iceland’s programme to reduce drug use in young people, which is a programme that runs throughout the country and starts when children are young. It offers all children a chance to engage in after school activities and promotes quality time with parents whilst implementing a curfew for children between a certain age. The programme runs on the idea that if children have a busy and engaging lifestyle they are less likely to be interested in using their time to take drugs or drink. So far this kind of programme has had massive success as it offers children and young adults an alternative to taking drugs as well as providing them with honest information on substances and extra sessions if they have already started taking drugs before entering the programme.
Even though these places have shown acceptance and forced their hand in helping people who use drugs it is also important to realise that not everybody may need these kinds of support programmes and facilities as they simply do not have a substance abuse problem. Recreational use is becoming increasingly popular whether as a hobby or as stress relief and people who use drugs for this reason are not always looking to stop and forcing people into treatment or detox programmes will not always help.
Support programmes such as the treatment centres described above are incredibly helpful for people who feel they are simply not ready to come off a drug but do not want to do themselves any more harm. This approach of understanding leads to an environment where drug users feel safe, protected and understood rather than shunned and self conscious. Although people may say Iceland's programme has gone a little further than it needed to, it got the results the country wanted and is a true testament to the idea that putting more time in to understand drug use has more of a chance at creating results than ignoring the issue and hoping it will go away. Support, awareness and understanding of drug use leads to a fully educated and supportive community where people can always look for help and advice as and when it is needed or wanted.