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That Scourge: Drugs - August 16, 2004

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That Scourge: Drugs

Damage and Destruction

Good Morning Saint Lucia,

I want to converse with you today about an issue that consumes me, indeed that tortures me. It is that scourge called drugs.

At some point, you must have seen in your community, some young person, spaced-out, dirty, shoddily dressed and begging for help or food. You must also have seen the number of groups of young people who gather in various places doing nothing but selling, buying and consuming drugs.

I have often wondered why so many of our young people get attracted to drugs and become victims when they can see all around them the obvious damage to their peers and to our society.

Drugs – especially the hard drugs like crack and cocaine – have consumed so many young and talented St. Lucians. Indeed, we know of the ravages they have caused, because we often describe the victims as “Jumbies” or “Zombies”.

We know of families that have been torn apart by drugs; that have lost property because addicts -- their own relatives -- steal and sell or pawn household property to raise money to purchase these hard drugs.

Why is it that if the destruction is so obvious all around us, that our young people continue to consume those drugs? We are losing entire communities to the scourge of drugs, yet its use continues. Why?

All sorts of reasons are offered as to why people get hooked on drugs. Some blame it on frustration induced by unemployment. If so, why do individuals employed in good jobs get into drugs? Why is it that people who hold jobs, engage in trade and become drug dealers and traffickers?

When Prime Minister PJ Patterson of Jamaica was here at the beginning of July, he said in our Parliament that many are involved in drugs, not just for consumption, but because it is a way of life and an economic system for them. I agree. But what this also means is that if it’s a way of life and an economic system, then it cannot be fought as if it was just a bad habit.

Drugs and Guns

Everyone knows the link between drugs, guns and crime. The drug traffickers need to protect their ill-gotten gains from firstly the Police, and secondly, from other gangs. They trade drugs for guns. These gangs know one language – death. The drug lords recruit young men and arm them with guns to enforce their will and bidding. They become consumed with their power and in no time seek to enforce their will on those around them. Young people murder each other for their masters – the drug lords and barons. Is it little wonder that the majority of murders these days are drug-related?

In order to keep the gangs intact, to feed and clothe them, the drug leaders must earn money from their evil trade. They maintain gangs of terror and fear to enforce their will, protect their turf and trade. It is a business that uses intimidation, terror and brutality. Yet, we tolerate their existence and find excuses for what they do. Why?

Drugs All Around…

By the way, when we talk about drugs, we must include alcohol and tobacco. We have been seeing for years what alcohol can do and has done to so many in our society, both young and old. We see its victims in and outside the rum shops and bars or lying on the pavements, unable to get home.

The effects of tobacco consumption are less obvious, but no less harmful to the body. Indeed, St. Lucia was just recently praised by the international health institutions such as the WHO and PAHO for what our Government has been doing to stem tobacco consumption in our country.

The tobacco companies in the USA are now being sued for causing death to people who smoke the cigarettes they produce. They are being made to pay millions, if not billions, in individual and class action law suits. These law suits have been brought by persons who have become addicted to cigarettes through the misleading and unhealthy advertising of those companies.

Getting Away With Murder…

I therefore ask: If the consumption of drugs is so addictive and if persons are losing their lives through drugs, then should those who traffic in drugs be allowed to get away with just incarceration in prison? Shouldn’t they too be liable for damages for causing the death of others? After all, they make the killer drugs available…

If the consumption of drugs leads to death and creates such loss of life, aren’t the drug dealers also responsible? Shouldn’t we amend our laws to penalize such persons more seriously?

A Common Fight Against A Common Enemy…

So then, how do we fight these scourges? Each drug requires a special fight, each in different ways. But in the end it is a common fight against a common scourge that affects us all, not only in St. Lucia but the world over.

Individual Decisions

In the case of alcohol, the societal acceptability of this drug necessitates at first, an individual decision about consumption. Either we decide not to consume alcohol or, if we do, we do so with a level of moderation and restraint, bearing in mind the ultimate harmful effects on the mind and body.

In the case of cigarettes, it is also a personal decision: either we don’t smoke, or we do so at the risk of knowing that it is dangerous to our health and will unleash cancer and respiratory diseases.

In the case of marijuana, even though it is described as a soft drug, the lessons are the same: excessive use does have its harmful effects on the mind and body.

But in the case of crack or cocaine, it is much worse, as can be seen in the examples I quoted earlier.

More Than Just A Personal Decision

Using drugs of any kind – alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, crack or cocaine -- is more than just a personal decision. That’s because, as I said earlier, it has implications for the entire family, indeed for the entire society.

There are obvious institutional measures than can and are being employed in the fight against drugs. These measures range from persuasion to prosecution.

However, at the personal level we each have a duty to our families and communities to conduct ourselves in ways that assist in the fight against drugs of all kinds.

The way we conduct ourselves at home, for example, has implications for the overall battle.

If we consume alcohol, smoke cigarettes or marijuana, or use crack or cocaine at home, it becomes a household fixture.

If parents use any type of drugs in the presence of children, then the children will see nothing wrong with following the fashion and they too will become users -- innocent at first, but habitual and addictive in the end.

Every drug trafficker is a potential enemy. Their sole purpose is to make killer drugs available to our children, our brothers, our sisters and all who will pay. They are in it only for the money, and the power. They will fry brains simply to make the money to keep their dirty and evil trade alive.

We All Have A Stake In This Fight!

This brief talk was not intended to be a lecture on drugs, but simply a reminder that we all have a stake in the fight against all forms of drugs in our society. We cannot allow our children to be consumed before our very eyes. We have a common enemy.

As I said earlier, we all know of the harmful effects of hard drugs because the evidence is there for all to see.

Drugs mean death. A life on drugs is a life wasted. We have lost too many. Now is the time to step up the fight, beginning at home.

Until next Monday, do take care of yourself.



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