Tag Archive: addiction

The execution of eight individuals for drug related offences caused a huge stir around the World. Indonesia has since been condemned by all and sundry for these executions. Over the years, we have noticed a trend where countries are gradually doing away with the death penalty. Individuals who commit various nefarious acts are instead sentenced to longer years in jail, sometimes without parole, in exchange for the death penalty. The debate will probably continue in the future about the pros and cons of the death penalty.

Human life is sacred and the fact that an individual can pass a judgement for a suspect to be executed sounds extreme. The trouble however is that some innocent lives could potentially be lost because they had a bad defense team or were falsely accused of crimes they knew nothing about. Individuals with the best defense attorneys stand a better chance in court. For those who have a poor defense team, the outcome is almost always predictable. There have been cases in which convicts who were sentenced to very long-term in prison have been found to be innocent and subsequently released following retrial, successful appeals or emergence of new evidence exonerating these individuals. If they had been subjected to the death penalty and hastily executed, they probably would have been long dead before their innocence was proven. For many, after their execution, the case is usually never reopened; these cases may be permanently locked up in the history books. The idea that a wrongly accused convict could have a chance to redeem himself and start afresh offer hope to those against the idea of capital punishment.

Individuals from a certain social, ethnic or racial background are likely going to have tougher sentences in some societies. The murder of a wealthy and influential person in the society is likely to carry much stiffer punishment (especially if the killer has a lower societal standing) compared to another similar case where the victim has a low social status. Punishments are meted out unevenly depending on the social standing of the victim and the offender. It is not uncommon to see poorer men and women or men from a certain racial background having stiffer punishment in court, sometimes even death. And don’t forget, these suspects are left open to the dangers of human errors or misjudgment of the investigators.

Indonesia and some other countries have made it a law that anyone involved in certain criminal offences get the death penalty. Drug related offences are part of the long list. The punishment is clear and precise, supposedly to serve as a warning to anyone who intends to engage in such activities. However, this does not seem to deter many people from taking the risk. People who go on to move drugs into these countries do so with the aim of getting rich very quickly, to drive the fastest and finest cars and of course live in luxurious houses. This comes with the added incentive of having the finest ladies flocking around them. After all, as a popular comedian once said, prayer moves heaven but money moves earth. This seems like a perfect scenario; a classical utopian world.

Working hard is not always seen as the best way to go about life anymore or probably it is difficult to work hard. So it is not uncommon to see men and women of different demographic distribution traveling to these countries as carriers of illicit drugs. It is usually a case of the higher the risk, the larger the reward. Many are lucky and succeed but some are not so lucky.

While it cannot be ruled out that some of those accused may be innocent, it must be said that anyone who decides to engage in carrying these illicit drugs should take full responsibility when they are caught. Carrying drugs to countries that have an established punishment for such offences is only asking for trouble. While we continue to criticise these countries that sentence these offenders, the real question should be, why would anyone decide to carry these substances to these countries when the potential punishment has been spelt out even before the substances are lifted? I, therefore, want to assume that they do this with a full knowledge and acceptance of the possible consequence of what could happen if they are caught. Therefore, I see it as an act of epic lunacy for anyone to take drugs to those countries and expect some form of clemency and sympathy when they are caught.

Finally, the dangers of drug consumption are well documented. Many people have lost their families, fame, fortune and friends because they got involved in the dangerous habit of consuming these hard drugs. Many have also contacted life threatening illnesses through sharing needles during the process of consuming these drugs. Unfortunately, many lose their lives from drug overdose. We only hear about the famous celebrities who are always the focus of media attention. The ordinary man or woman on the street who is an addict is usually not remembered or mentioned when they die because no one knew him or her. Ironically, the society sees those suffering from addiction as culprits rather than people who need help. Perhaps, the real question should be how did they get these drugs and who provided them? How do we get these drugs off the market and rehabilitate addicts? Those who make these drugs available for their financial gains should be made to face the music. After all, it is logical to say that if there are no drugs to buy, there will probably be no addicts.


Drug Addicts are the victims.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was a talented American actor and director. He was also an Academy Award Winner. It was therefore a shock when it was announced that he had lost his life to drug addiction. Large amounts of Heroin and a number of prescription pills were found. This was one of the many tragedies that had befallen individuals due to the use of illicit drugs and abuse of prescription pills.
Unfortunately, there is a high possibility that many more deaths could occur in the future as a result of drug addiction. Many individuals now see these drugs as a route of escape from their many problems. The pressure is intense, many had difficult times growing up at home and many have succumbed to peer pressure. It is now common to see people purchase these drugs at exorbitant and ridiculous amounts. Some may resort to stealing to keep up. Celebrities, behind all that classy pictures painted in public, are also significantly affected. We only want to see the beautiful parts of their lives but many are also afflicted with issues of drug addiction. The pressure of keeping up with their new found fame and the associations they keep make them easy targets. These drugs keep them going. A day without these substances feels like a day in hell. That is what addiction does. In many cases, their bank accounts take a significant hit.
I have seen individuals who could not stay at work or continue working beyond 10am if they had not had a stick of cigarette or other substances which they have become addicted to. Codeine seems to be a new trend now. Hence, the popular cough syrup, Benylin (with Codeine) is no longer a cough syrup. When you see someone practically drinking that cough syrup repeatedly like his or her life depended on it, you will get a better picture of what I am trying to say.
The dangers of drug addiction cannot be over emphasised. We now know that addicts, whether friends or foe, take these substances together. It is not uncommon to see more than five addicts sharing needles to get these drugs injected into their bloodstream as this way it has a faster onset of action. Sit back for a minute and think about the dangers of that alone. Then you begin to understand the implication. These drugs can cause respiratory depression and even death if the individual is unlucky. If the individual is relatively lucky, so many diseases could be gotten from sharing needles and syringes. These include various forms of Hepatitis Virus, HIV/AIDS and many others. Many also end up engaging in unprotected sexual practices which are usually unplanned because some of these drugs fuel sexual desires.
I’ve been made to understand that there are many drug rehabilitation centres in Nigeria but the big question is, how many of them function at optimal capacity? Or better still, how many of them function at all? It is not uncommon in the Western World to see addicts get admitted in rehab centres for long periods as they seek help. There seems to be a conscious effort to try and assist them in getting over their addiction. Many are lucky and never relapse. They come clean and ultimately, a life is saved.
Over here, it is not so straight forward. Only very few people (mostly health professionals) have an idea of where the rehabilitation centres are located in the country. And many of these centres only act as artifacts, as an avenue and means to steal public funds rather than been a tool to help these troubled individuals. We also do not have a quality programme which effectively educates individuals on the dangers of consuming these illicit substances and informing addicts of how and where to seek help for their addiction. We only have few posters and billboards thrown hundreds of kilometres apart nonchalantly telling us that drug kills and that it is also an offence to take them.
Sadly, rather than offering help to these individuals, drug addiction has been criminalised. Anyone seen taking these nefarious substances are arrested, locked up and subsequently beaten. Could they have been taken to one of the rehab homes? Arresting an addict does not cure the addiction. It is common knowledge that members of the law enforcement agencies are not exactly saints. Individuals arrested for consuming drugs could be released after paying a “token” to these officers of the law. Hence, some never get to court. It ends at the police station. He then goes back to his old ways until he meets his end.
Drugs are illegal but the major culprits should be those who ensure these drugs remain in circulation. Tougher sanctions should be meted out on drug dealers. They are perhaps an important reason this trend is on the increase. Drug dealers do not kill people but they provide them a mean which could take their lives and hence should take some form of responsibility.
Russel Brand, a drug addict in recovery, summarised it nicely. In his words,“If drugs are illegal, people who use drugs are criminals. We have set our moral compass on this erroneous premise, and we have strayed so far off course that the landscape we now inhabit provides us no solutions and greatly increases the problem.”
Philip Hoffman’s death and many others before him reminds us of the fatal dangers associated with addiction. He died alone with no one beside him. Think of those many addicts, the ordinary man or woman who has succumbed to addiction. Addiction is an illness and only when you come to terms with what it does to these individuals will you truly appreciate how grave the situation is; how it kills them slowly and gradually take away everything they have including their fortune, family and friends.
Finally, our youths must be educated on the dangers of taking these drugs and dealers must be clamped down with ruthless efficiency. Addict should be helped to get on the long road to recovery. Functional rehabilitation centres should be established and affected individuals encouraged to use them. As a community and country, our attitude also has to change. They should not be discriminated against.

Uche H. Okafor