Harm reduction but one aspect

Dear editor and Gary Hein,

Re. Legalization of Drugs is the answer

Thank you for your letter. In this letter you explain some “logical” reasons for drug legalization. Certainly harm reduction is one important component of dealing with this crisis we are now in. In Portugal, where all drugs are now legalized, there has been a reduction in crime and some other problems. Addiction, however, is not as simple as dealing with just the drugs, and not only does it consist of being only drug-related. Drugs are simply the easy topic as we more easily see some of its effects. Gambling, porn, sex, internet addiction, workaholism and others are just as devastating to people and their families and our society. One recent study showed that if cell phones are taken away from teens, within 24 hours they are going through physical withdrawal symptoms! Addiction is a very complex disorder that includes biological, psychological, social and spiritual components. Harm reduction is but one aspect to assist in its management. In a similar way we can paint a fence but underneath the fence there are other layers that need to be considered for a stronger fence to occur such as the ground the fence is on, the cement the posts are in, the materials, the caring in putting up the fence, and so on.

For many years there have been discussions about developing “the four pillars” in dealing with addiction issues but what has been done? This approach has been instituted successfully in a number of European countries. The four pillars include harm reduction, prevention, treatment and enforcement. Yet we continue funnelling money only into the end results of addiction and not focusing the others, in particular prevention and treatment. We know how to treat addiction well when people are ready for treatment. There are several excellent multidisciplinary programs in Canada but they are all private pay. Why? Because those experts know that longer-lasting changes can only be achieved through longer term treatments, much more than a government paid detox or a four-week treatment program.

What about prevention, which would be the most cost-effective of them all and might even lead to a healthier society for all? For instance, for years I have thought that having all Grade 6 students participate in a modified 12-step or equivalent type of program would result in children developing increased coping skills, personal accountability, resiliency and community building. Unless society also invests in the other three pillars, we will continue on the path we are heading down, unfortunately and predictably. What do we want? What are we going to demand be done about this? If we only focus on the end result of addiction we will continue to see only the sad end result of years of addiction. As a mentor of mine reminds me, “If we continue on the path we are going, we will end up exactly where we are headed.”

Barb Fehlau MD

Courtenay

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