Reforming Rehab

In addressing the issue of drug addiction in Pakistan, the Federal Minister for Law and Justice has finally come forward with the introduction of reforms and changes focusing on probation in the Anti-Narcotics Act. The inclusion of rehabilitation aspects in this act shows that the government is fully committed to addressing the root cause of this epidemic.

Combatting drug addiction has always been a challenge for the nation. For far too long it seems that our law enforcement agencies have been too focused on the criminality aspect, jailing offenders with no regard for remedial procedures. This combined with our preexisting rehabilitation centers that are overly reliant on religious doctrine instead of modern science, has made drug addiction a very challenging issue to tackle.

The UN released a report in 2022 that revealed over 7 million individuals are severely addicted to lethal drugs in the nation. This is an alarmingly high statistic that has not seen a decrease till now, and it proves that whatever methods we are employing at the moment are ineffective. We need to look towards countries like Canada or Switzerland, nations that have effectively implemented drug-assisted treatment methods, needle exchange programs, and supervised injection sites – modern methods used in today’s rehab centers. It is understandable why addicts are seen as criminals in the face of the law. However, at some point, we must learn to differentiate between a recreational user and a person who is seriously ill. It is the responsibility of the state to understand that with punishments comes medical help; imprisoning a person from the lower income group that has spent their meager earnings on a narcotic is not going to solve anything.

Criminalisation may act as a deterrence for a casual user, but addicts cannot be stopped this easily. Religion is indeed a part of addressing addiction, but it is not the cure. We need state-funded organisations that use scientific methods to curb this issue. This is a physical ailment, involving physical withdrawal and pain, and it must be treated as such.

Addressing the social aspects of addiction is also an integral part of this process. We need to end the stigma surrounding drug addiction that deters individuals from seeking help and clarify misconceptions about rehabilitation. Once individuals get past this element of shame, they should be able to trust in the fact that the state has established everything they will need.

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