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The Balloon Effect
A drug-free world is a far-fetched fairy tale which we all dream of. Seeing this become a reality would be a sign of immense improvement in the mindset of humans and would mark a milestone in the evolution of humans. Let us start today, by changing our own mindset, and our own approach to illicit drug abuse.
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As a matter of fact, illicit drug trafficking is notorious for brutal violence, manslaughter, torture and kidnapping. What is more disturbing is the fact that this has actually been normalized for many people living in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Syria, Columbia and even Mexico to a certain extent. In general, drug-related wars all over the world have always been lethal. But this kind of violence, violence that seems undertaken almost for its own sake, truly became a daily part of life in the late 2000s. There are so many large syndicates which are so technologically advanced that the situation is slowly getting out of control.
Abysmally, in both drug production and trafficking areas, there has been an upsurge of violence, corruption, impunity, erosion of rule of law, and human rights violations caused by the emergence of powerful organized crime groups and drug cartels.
Now I am sure you must be wondering what the relevance of the title, “The Balloon Effect”, is to this issue. To simplify it, this term is basically an analogy between drug cartels and balloons. When we try to limit or contain a drug cartel through a law enforcement operation, we can only limit that one cartel while all the other cartels are still out of control. In fact, the other cartels may even adapt to more violent methods. Similarly, when one squeezes a latex balloon, a part of it shrinks while the other part bulges. This is a simple yet complicated analogy that emphasizes on the need to reduce drug demand, rather than supply.
When we talk about the detrimental impact of drug abuse, we can see that the younger population aged 15-24 has always been the targeted audience for drug consumption. Peer pressure, curiosity, availability of drugs or the mere lack of education amongst the youth are some of the significant causes for drug abuse. The statistics are even more disheartening. By 8th grade, an approximate of 15% of high-schoolers have consumed marijuana. According to a report by the National Centre for Drug Abuse and Statistics, 43% of college students have reportedly been consuming illicit drugs.
What if you were told that one mistake, would end up destroying your dignity, respect and even basic rights to earn a livelihood? This is precisely what is happening to drug addicts all round the world. These addicts are physically, emotionally, intellectually, and financially impacted by the use of illicit, life-threatening drugs. One cannot even imagine the social stigma they face on a daily basis. It is imperative for our society to understand that drug addicts are not criminals, but victims of egregious circumstances. So, rather than criminalizing drug consumption, we should start looking at effective methods of approaching these people, who are in dire need of assistance.
Injected drug use (IDU) has also emerged as an issue which need immediate attention. Out of the estimated 15.9 million people who inject drugs all over the world, up to 3 million are infected with blood-borne diseases such as HIV.
The Indian Government has taken several positive initiatives to curb rising drug abuse in our country. The constitution of the Narco-Coordination Centre, National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse and Project ‘Sunrise’ are just to name a few. India had also launched the National Viral Hepatitis Programme with the main focus of treating injected-drug users suffering from Hepatitis C.
However, we are far from reaching our ultimate goal of complete eradication of drug manufacturing, trafficking, distribution and/or consumption of any illicit drug or psychotropic substance. There are a myriad effective steps that can be taken to abate the rates of drug consumption. We often underrate and underestimate the indomitable impact education has on young minds. Therefore, including realistic aspects in educational curriculums, such as the harm caused by consuming drugs, is of prime importance.
Another significant need of the hour is the establishment of ethical rehabilitation centres. While we must focus on reducing drug demand, we must also focus on helping those already affected by drugs. For the same, more and more rehabilitation centres must be established for drug addicts. The presence of qualified doctors, sufficient supply of medicine and constant monitoring of rehabilitation centres must be ensured at all times.
Asian countries such as Afghanistan and Myanmar are notorious hubs of opium production. There have been several instances where drugs have been smuggled into our country. To resolve this, the countries should make their inspection of firearms and ammunition at borders more stringent and security checkpoints should be established at frequent intervals. The cross-border surveillance at crucial points must also be strengthened by recruiting officials with a high skill-set who are properly trained. It is completely understandable that this is a large-scale solution but in the long-run, this would greatly benefit our country. The rates of drug consumption will indirectly reduce due to which there would be enhanced productivity leading to a better future for India.
Do you think that unauthorized drug trade has suffered a huge blow because of the Covid-19 pandemic? If you think so, then you could not be more wrong. “Where there is a will there is a way.”- this quote was highly misused during the pandemic with regard to drug trade. Peddlers adapted to online drug trade through the DarkNet, heavily relying on technology and GPS trackers to make their supply available for consumption. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2021 World Drug Report, major online drug markets are now worth $315 million. Access to drugs has become simpler than ever. The way forward with this is for countries to activate cyber-crime departments and ensure that the skill-set of officials recruited is of top notch quality. Many first-time drug buyers are unaware of the fact that they are visiting an unauthorized website which sells drugs. To try and solve this, Artificial Intelligence can also be used to its advantage and we can focus on development of a software that recognize and rightly warn the user that it is entering an unofficial site which may be hazardous.
The war on drugs is a long one which will take much more than five years of a presidential mandate to win. The administration cannot implement the correct policies on their own; they require the support of the civilians and the subsequent administration should ensure the continuity of the same. We have to be a little more broad-minded and look at the macro as well as micro aspect of this predominant issue. It is imperative for us to change our mindset and help reduce the blemish drug consumers face. The only way forward is decriminalizing drug consumption and focusing on not only reducing drug demand but also providing assistance to those already affected.
A drug-free world is a far-fetched fairy tale which we all dream of. Seeing this become a reality would be a sign of immense improvement in the mindset of humans and would mark a milestone in the evolution of humans. Let us start today, by changing our own mindset, and our own approach to illicit drug abuse. Let us, truly be the change we want to see.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.