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Drug Ambivalence and Social Control

Sehrish Shamroze Khan, Islamabad
According to a survey report, there are 7.6 million drug addicts in the country, out of which 78 percent are men and 22 percent women; the rate of increase in the number of drug addicts is 40,000 a year.
When young people engage in alcohol and other drug abuse, they, their families, and their communities usually suffer. The strong association between drug abuse and delinquency is detrimental for society. Illicit drugs occupy an ambivalent position in modern society; although illicit drugs have become increasingly familiar, their use is still widely thought to be harmful and morally dubious, creating a series of challenges. Over the years many programs have been developed to help curb illegal activity, however it still continues.
There are many stigmas that exist in society, each ranging in severity and consequence. Society, as a whole is quick to judge others and make quick assumptions about the person, based on their actions or other limited information. Those that use illicit drugs are one of the most stigmatized groups in society today. There is a negative connotation at the mere speaking of drug abuse. Children are taught from an early age that drugs are bad and will lead them to a life full of crime and potentially even death. It does send a message to youth that communicates that people, who suffer from addiction, are “bad or criminals”.
Psychologists consider the harder drugs, such as heroin, krokodil, alcohol, ice, oxygen shots, cannabis, scopolamine, crack cocaine, crystal meth, AH-7921, flakka, bath salts or methamphetamines, to be the worst and those that use them as the worst addicts. The reason for the more negative assumptions may be based on the level of harm that the drug causes. These are known to cause severe health concerns and commonly lead to illegal behavior that has a negative effect on society.
The law is governmental social control; it is the state’s most direct intervention in the normative life of its citizens. Psychoactive drugs are controlled through regulation and prohibition. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Pakistan have 6.7 million drug users. More than 4 million of these are addicts, amongst the highest number for any country in the world. Abuse of cannabis and heroin is rife in the country and the drugs are extremely cheap and easy to get. According to the survey report, treatment and specialist interventions were in short supply. During the period under review, treatment was available to less than 30,000 drug users.
One of the most notable policy changes has come with the establishment of Drug Courts. Drug Courts have been put in action to address drug offenses in a more efficient manner. Before these specialty courts were established, an individual convicted of drug offenses, may be punished, fined or incarcerated and then returned to society. In addition to prison and jail overcrowding, society also noted that the system was not efficient and had poor results.
Coerced treatment as a form of control is one of the first lines of defenses for families. In most states there are laws and protections that allow a person, who is in danger of harm to be committed. In many cases, families are frustrated with their loved ones and fearful for their safety so they attempt to convince or force the person into treatment. Unfortunately, when an individual is an adult it is rather difficult to force them into treatment without legal action. Most offenders take the offered help, however there are those that refuse treatment or counseling.
With the increase in the criminalization of drugs, there have also been numerous changes to deterrence attempts. Media, educational institutes, seminars and communities offer drug prevention and awareness programs. The increased amount of drugs and detriment has caused an increase in media coverage and allowed people to become more aware of the prevalence of drug use.
Other factors that place individuals at a higher risk of drug use are lower socio-economic status, family problems, academic trouble, and mental illness. In light of these factors being noted, programs have been established to combat the negative effects. These intervention programs are meant to assist parents in a better understanding of the needs of their children, the warning signs of drug abuse as well as the importance of the family role.
Licit drugs are made available through a regulatory scheme of medical prescription and legal sale; health is protected through investigating, licensing, and monitoring the quality and quantity of drugs and the circumstances in which they are consumed. Illicit drugs are forbidden by criminal statutes which create offenses related to both use (i.e., possession) and distribution (i.e., trafficking, importing); no level of use is acceptable and there is no legal source of supply. The agents of control for licit drugs are physicians, scientists, and health bureaucrats. In contrast, the agents that enforce illicit drug laws are the police, prosecutors, courts, and customs officials.
According to experts, the easiest and most effective solution would be to send addicts to a rehabilitation centre. A humanistic form of treatment has been found to be most effective in dealing with drug addicts. But, first of all, awareness and prevention must start at home, with parents. Experts recommend that the devastating effects of drugs should be discussed even at school level, and awareness raising campaigns should be launched, especially through the electronic media. The Anti-Narcotics Force is a federal executive arm of government tasked with combating drug smuggling and use within Pakistan, but its scorecard is, at best, mixed. The need is for government agencies to come down hard on drug cartels, which is the only way to reduce the incidence of drug abuse in the country.

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