Fight The War Against Drugs

Drug addiction is probably the most powerful destroyer of societies known to man. It is possible to fight terror because it is not a permanent state of being. It is possible to fight poverty because wealth can be created with discipline and intelligence. It is possible to arm a nation if it has the means to buy weapons and protect itself from invaders. It is possible to correct gender indignity by creating a level playing field for men and women. A definite sign of progress, for instance, is when a nation has had men and women governing it.

Drugs and alcohol corrode. Drugs have defeated the most powerful nation on earth, the United States of America. The war on drugs that began in the 1970s is now drawing to a close with about a trillion dollars already spent on it. The US has begun to legalize drugs it had once criminalized. Narcotics have ripped apart Mexico where the state abdicates to drug gangs in many places. If we flip a few more pages, we can read how alcohol fueled the destruction of the Roman Empire.Arab News recently reported that 1,000 divorces had taken place over two months in Jeddah alone, because the husbands were addicted to alcohol and other drugs. This is probably a 500 to 700 percent jump in divorce rates.

A powerful foe seems to have entered Saudi Arabia. The increasing consumption of drugs in Saudi Arabia is indicative of several things. First, there are enough people willing to pay for expensive illegal drugs. 

Second, friends are the most powerful pathways to addiction. During the course of my work as a sobriety consultant in India, I noticed that in nearly 99 percent of cases, friends introduced a substance into people’s lives. In the other one percent, family introduced them to alcohol. You have to reach youngsters before friends do. It takes years for effective intervention once drugs become the principal means of bonding for young Saudis.

Third, families in Saudi Arabia may need guidance. Addicts don’t fall from the skies. They are created mostly in homes and, at times, in schools and colleges. Family systems and behavior hugely impact the emotional quotient of children. Drugs and alcohol become favored means of self-medication for youngsters who may have troubled relationships at home. This has been so in the US for decades. It is so in India as well, where addiction is growing by the day.

Fourth, external measures do not work without internal motivation. For instance, countries have sent people to prison for possessing and consuming drugs or alcohol. Some have even used the death penalty. Such measures generate fear. They do not heal. The report from Jeddah spoke of addiction tearing homes apart. This is not a space that laws can operate in. It requires expert intervention in the form of campaigns, counseling and treatment centers. It needs a nation to provide healthy outlets for its young so they may be gratified by success at sport or science, and not wait for drugs to provide the high.

Some measures may help although addiction is a complex condition. Saudi Arabia would need to provide expert family counseling on a large scale. Parenting is an incredibly difficult task. Saudi parents could benefit from parenting schools. It is an area of growing interest in India. Saudi Arabia could introduce random mandatory drug and alcohol tests for students. It could include such tests in the marriage process. Couples would then need to clear these tests like they do with HIV tests.

Saudi Arabia could also consider a surge in sports activity. It has the resources, which can erect the best infrastructure and generate interest in sport. Youngsters usually like the improvement in self-esteem that sports can trigger. They find the high better than that of drugs. None of these steps are magical solutions. But without them, it could be a struggle.

Arab News