Drugs continue to soar!
|Gibraltar does not appear to be anywhere near close in getting to grips with this serious social issue. In a social perspective we are experiencing very bad times. This is a disturbing and dangerous period where drug trends are ever changing with high levels of drug abuse now affecting a sizable part of the community, particularly the younger generation!
Crime is up to unprecedented levels, the vast majority of crimes are drug or alcohol related. Most worryingly is the fact that it's the next generation of Gibraltarians who are going to feel the brunt of today's excess drug and alcohol abuse, more so, because of the failed and ineffective anti-drug mechanisms put in place to combat this serious problem?
Drug arrests and court cases keeping rising!
Last week both the supreme and magistrates courts were hard at it, administering justice sending defendants away to prison on lengthy custodial sentences for possession and the supply of illegal drugs, these defendant were all relatively young people.
Although there were few surprises with police activity, when you think the RGP had another bumper year where drug arrests are concerned with record highs!
Yet as I have said countless times, encouraging as these police and customs arrests are, it is no where 'near scratching the tip of the surface to this serious social problem'
Too often however, politicians (and this has been apparent over the past 8 or 10 years) seem to act according to what they think is right, rather than what is necessary.
It is clear, that to achieve success and make in-roads into this problem a general agreement and support for the appropriate measures is essential.
New drug strategy must be properly financed!
People easily forget…that drug abuse affects too many lives - abuses, addicts, their loved ones, the victims of drug-related crime, they are all victims and cannot be ignored. The previous governments drug policy failed miserably, I think many people are aware of that latter point, I know I said as much numerous times!
However, I seriously believe the government needs to actively tackle this serious issue sooner rather than later. Not only do we need an updated drug strategy, but a 'new mentality' to accompany it! This if this increasing social problem is to be tackled effectively. Although importantly, I hope this time round; the new drug strategy is properly and adequately financed and resourced to enable it to meet its primary objectives and desired targets!
As I have commented before, there is no silver bullet solution to drug abuse, but other countries are way ahead of us as far as implementing a policy going beyond "drugs are bad" goes, and (as I have also said before) it would be very advantageous to closely analyse similar measures elsewhere, at the very least.
A growing problem in Europe!
The abuse of illegal drugs is a growing problem all over Europe. Various actions are taken by the European Union and member states. However there is a lack of common strategy and common goals in combating drugs. In addition, some countries and cities in Europe are actively advocating the legalisation of drugs and promote a policy which actually undermines other countries' efforts to limit the supply of drugs and the demand for them.
The spread of drugs in Europe many experts believe is a result of a shattered, resigned and often reactionary policies. Millions of Europeans (Gibraltar included) are directly affected by these weak policies, such as drug addicts, parents, relatives, victims of crimes and ultimately society! I don't know how many times I've said that!
Believe it or not many people are affected in Gibraltar, caught in the web of substance destruction. There is no such thing as recreational drug use or a social drink for someone with a substance related problem. In fact these are the people who in society are described as the worst troublemakers and the ones everyone has practically given up on. They have problems with the judiciary, their family, jobs, friends, relationships and society in general. Some are frustrated and turn aggressive and if they have a family, than matters get increasingly worse. It is where close and vulnerable family members like children suffer in many ways creating its own long term circle of suffering and hardship...
Quite a lousy life to look forward to!
There is no doubt - well to me at least, that crime figures, police arrests and the amount of drug related court appearances, and also the fact that our prison is overflowing with inmates 'is but a serious situation that cannot be ignored' considering, that alcohol, drug abuse and other types of compulsive related behaviour, such as gambling, are complex and multi-faceted and must all be effectively tackled without undue delay… this is (how I think) how bad it is!
The cost of drug-related crime
Drug abuse takes its toll on society that can only be partially measured. While we are able to estimate the number of drug-related crimes that occur each year, we can never determine fully the extent to which the quality of life in Gibraltar has been diminished by drug-related criminal behaviour. With the exception of only a few areas, which have declined in recent years, drug-related crime is continuing to grow at a strong and steady pace. This year again…crime rocketed another 13% above the previous year's figure!
Abuse of prescription drugs!
Another important issue connected to the general drug problem is the non-medical use of prescription drugs, involving substances like pain killers, sedatives and analgesics, tranquilizers and stimulants. For years that I know of, this matter has been another problem drug area and one that is hardly talked about in the same terms as other more well-known substance issue matters.
Experts in the field don't know exactly why this type of drug (prescription) abuse is increasing. The availability of drugs is probably one reason. Although doctors it must be said are prescribing more drugs for more health problems than ever before.
But primarily due to easy accessibility, prescription drug use/abuse is one of the fastest growing trends in many countries. If you have a cough, a headache, a fever, a stomach ache, if you can't go to sleep, if you sleep too much, what do you do? Take a pill. At least that is what many of us have been taught to do by our parents or recommended to do by our doctors.
The problem is that some medications are very addictive and if an extra pill is taken more often than recommended or given to a friend, then this in my book is abuse. Here again education is the best way to promote awareness about abusing prescription drugs, but unfortunately again, we have not had much of that!
Gibraltar not broken the bank in fight on drugs!
Drug abuse and misuse is a massive problem not only facing us here but the world over. Children and young people are losing their lives, dreams and future to drugs. Countless homes have been wrecked and drug-related crimes as we are witnessing in Gibraltar are destroying families and slowly ruining the social fabric of our community
However to date, Gibraltar cannot say that it has broken the bank in the fight against drug abuse (probably broken the bank for other things) compared to other places where governments are spending large amounts of money in tackling drug misuse and fighting the war on drugs. But unfortunately they do not seem to be winning this fight because, worryingly, the number of people turning to drugs is dramatically rising.
The fact is that locally the demand for illegal and legal drugs has risen and is rising sharply. More and more people than ever before are taking drugs. The question to be answered is 'why are people increasingly turning to drugs'?
I strongly believe in the good that society can do to cultivate prevention. This is a mission that can only be achieved (along with other programmes) through education at the very early stages of our children's lives…we need a lot more of it!
However, there is much more that could have been done! That should have been done! And now must be done by the new administration! Particularly where children and the older teens who, in their efforts to become assertive adults, often fall victims to abuse and addictions which are easy to acquire but very hard to overcome!