We need a much better drug policy

2017-07-18 06:00

The fatal stabbing of a loving dad, family man and City of Cape Town councillor by his teenage son is a tragedy because this could have been avoided if we had reviewed our policy on substance abuse and crimes related to it a long time back.

The story of Ellen Pakkies, who took the life of her child in a fit of insanity, caused by her drug addict son’s incessant, violent demands on her for money to feed his addiction, has not helped to force the policy makers of this country to review the policy on drug addiction.

It is a great pity that the formulation and oversight of the country’s drug policy is solely in the hands of the department of social services. As far back as 2012, the World Health Organisation declared drug addiction a disease like hypertension and diabetes. They strongly urged member countries to decriminalise addiction. I fail to see why our country is dragging its heels on this issue.

Portugal led the way in 2001 when it decriminalised addiction. They had about 100 000 known heroin addicts. They sent addicts, via the law, into rehabs and put them on opioid replacement therapy. With this approach, Portugal halved the number of heroin addicts in a matter of ten years. Many other countries have taken the step to decriminalise addiction ever since Portugal’s success.

Prisons are not places for addicts because this is where they get inducted into gangs. Ideally, substance users who are aggressive and refuse to seek help should be sent by force via the courts to rehabs. In my experience, addicts cannot think rationally when it comes to giving up their addiction, no matter how intelligent they are.

When this young teenager stabbed his father, he was desperate for his drug or was under the influence of drugs. In that state, he did not see his dad as his dad but as a hurdle to get his fix.

Many young teenage gangsters can kill over six rivals in a space of one year. This is only possible when they are under the influence of drugs like tik and cocaine. Under the influence of these drugs they become totally blunt, emotionally. When these gangsters end up in jail they experience severe flashbacks in their sleep and are filled with remorse in a sober state.

Several approaches to various government departments to review the policy have proved futile over the past ten years. I sincerely hope that this tragedy will force them to get all stakeholders involved in the formulation of a drug policy for this country.

We need the public to put pressure on government to address our drug policy as a matter of urgency before we read about more gruesome deaths of parents by their drug-addicted children.

DR EV Rapiti Kenwyn

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