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More reasons why drugs are bad…

Sunday, September 30, 2007 by Marianne Elliott

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gear, diesel, smack, B, boy, skag, Harry, Bobby, black tar, horse, honk, munge, junk, brok, jack, jenny, brown, brown sugar, brownstone, dark, sweaty, dope, pof, sam, waccocco, lovage, dragon, bitch, skurge, ron, ice cube, A-Stock, jim, jim nix, moop, sweet lady H… (thanks Wikipedia for this list, I personally am totally clueless)

Whatever the hell you call it, I'm here to tell you that heroin is baaaad for a whole lot more reasons than the ones you can read here (on the website of the National Institute on Drug Abuse).

I'm guessing you already know about the serious bad that heroin use can do to the actual user, and to his/her family and friends. You are probably also more than familiar with the damage done to families and communities by the crime that goes hand in hand with the business of importing, transporting, buying and selling the drug in the countries of primary consumption.

But this week my life has been dominated by the damage done by the drug business here in Afghanistan, the world's largest producer of opium. I sometimes wonder what would happen if every gram of heroin sold on the streets of New York or London came with a little documentary about the journey that brought it from a field in Afghanistan to the end user. A documentary that told the story of all the lives, dreams and hopes for the future that were destroyed along the way.

What do you think? Would it make any difference?

Would recreational drug users in Manhattan think twice about their hit if they actually saw the entire communities destroyed by the production of opium here in Afghanistan? If they saw women addicts and their already addicted children, using opiates to dull the pain of a life in which they have literally no choice but to work for the druglords.

If they saw the men who are profiting from their consumption. Druglords who not only control the opium production and trafficking but who are also the elected representatives of these same desparate villagers. Druglords who, when their source of income and power is threatened, will not hestitate to kill, to destroy and to once again destabilise a community struggling to find its feet after three decades of war.

Yesterday I sat with the uncle and commanding officer of a young ANP soldier killed last week in an apparently bungled drug seizure. Rumours have been flying all week as to the circumstances of his death Was he killed by the drug traffickers, who should – in theory – have been contained by police at that point? Or was he killed by crooked police officers on the payroll of the drug lords?

When we finished our interview and I finished offering my genuine sympathy at the loss of this young man's life, the police officer (known to be a straight man in an institution not known for its abundance of straight men) looked me in the eye and said "if some Afghans cared as much about the life of one young soldier as you do then maybe this endless killing would be over".

I couldn't help thinking, "if there was no market for this shit then maybe this endless killing would be over."

The relationship between narcotics and the insurgency in Afghanistan is far too complicated for me to make sense of let alone try to write about here. But from where I'm sitting the narcotic trade is one of the biggest challenges facing Afghanistan. I know that there are a lot of things to be done to combat it here. But I can't help wondering whether it will ever be beaten as long as the market exists.


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15 Responses to "More reasons why drugs are bad…"

  1. ceanandjen says:

    I had NO idea that drug trade was such an issue there. Obviously, I knew how horrendous it is in other places, but now knowing that it actually goes hand in hand with so many other things going on there…oh goodness, how it complicates thing that much more. What you describe is such a terrible terrible (that word does not even begin to do it justice) reality for so many people. How do they get out from under it?
    You are right, that it goes far beyond people caring. The only way to even begin to erase this is to kill the demand for it. Insurmountable at best, which just adds to the heartbreak of the situation.
    Thank you for sharing yet another reality which, if nothing else, opens our eyes to the “real” that goes on.
    Peace and love to you.xoxox

  2. sassy says:

    I was in Myanmar several years ago, and though we didn’t see the production itself, could perceive the effects on the people almost immeadiately after crossing over the Thai border.
    To make a long story short, our passports and cameras were confistated, as was our every move followed just to ensure that the information we saw while in there didn’t get out. It was quite disturbing.
    Yet we were able to leave. Obviously, that is not the case for the people who live in such circumstances.

  3. Margaret says:

    Being in one of the countries that is on the receiving end and being a social worker who has had the opportunity to occasionally work with addicts (this isn’t something I do all the time, its is hard and usually nonrewarding work) I can say that a documentary would not work with too many users. It might work with some who are considering the idea of experimenting because they are not yet hooked but it would only work with those who feel a sense of purpose and community. The problem, in my opinion, is a sense of disconnection or purposelessness and often hopelessness. That’s what gets people started no matter what seems to be the reason on the exterior and once you are hooked, it’s hard to stop. My plan would be much more long term and would involve ensuring that people feel a sense of community and connection locally and globally. This is why I am also an idealistic educator! 🙂

  4. Frida says:

    Yeah Margaret. I know.
    Actually, that’s why I don’t talk about the really complicated issues affecting Afghanistan here very often. Because they are so complicated. Because the drug trade that is reinforcing power of warlords in Ghor and creating a whole new group of users in Afghanistan (and addicts who have access to nothing ressembling a decent treatment option) is connected to problems like social breakdown and a loss of community in the States.
    But at the same time those connections are almost the most important things to talk about. They bridge the chasm between citizens of the USA and citizens of Afghanistan and make us all members of the same broken community. Broken but not, in my view, unfixable.

  5. Swirly says:

    These problems are so complicated! As always, you give an entirely new (and much needed) insight into a problem that I think most people see in a fairly one dimensional way. How would the world be different if we all knew the detailed journeys of so many things (our food, oil, clothing made in China, etc.)

  6. tiny noises says:

    As another social worker who has seen her share of street kids addicted to heroin and other drugs, I agree that those addicted here are as enslaved as the workers forced into it there. For me, the over riding problem seems to always be poverty. But what a big and complicated mess that problem is as well! The more people have to live in poverty with few resources, the less options they have and the narrower their road becomes. That road often leads to drugs, to prostitution, to theft, to violence. And we are talking about an incredibly resiliant population of survivors, some of the strongest people you will ever ever meet. The catch is that to survive you do things you would never even dream of if you had other options.
    I have seen young people survive terrible trauma, abuse, and drug use at home who set out to be “straight ede” (to never do drugs), but then some of them get involved in prostitution to pay for food or a place to spend the night, and suddenly they are using drugs to numb themselves from their downward spiral.
    I know it is easier to see problems than to fix them, and I am trying everyday to fight those problems and be part of the solution. I just wish we had a clearer vision of what the solution really is for humankind as a whole. What a heavy response to a thought provoking post, huh?

  7. You’re so right – supply and demand. If the addicts all were ‘cured’ and the demand dwindled, than a market economy would not produce or create anymore supply than what was left. Ultimately a crop based on addiction is morally bad for everyone; but if it is based in economy than the profits prevail.
    Wonderfully thoughtful post. Peace, JP/deb

  8. Alex says:

    The news can be so removed and distant, making it easy to mask the real issues and making it hard for anyone to really relate or understand the journey that is behind everything. I think that sharing stories like you do, with a fresh and real perspective definitely plants a seed of compassion. The drug trade problem is a “big fish to fry”, as we all know, but by touching people’s hearts like you do with your real life stories, you’re helping them assimilate the issues from a more tangible perspective… And hopefully, they will pass that knowledge on, contributing for the cause. I sure hope so. :*)

  9. mahima says:

    unfortunately, like any big money illegal/violent venture (diamonds, drugs, oil…)has become something integrated into the legal, political, security frameworks of so many syatems that its so hard to put an end to it just by controlling any one end. but any little step is a help. it may not stop all recreational drug users (because herion addicts may not be the kind who’ll read the packaging on their purchase) but it may stop some. and every one stopped and changed is a small victory, isn’t it?
    i love your drive and your spirit frida.

  10. Mardougrrl says:

    Thiss is definitely something I think about often, as my family is from Colombia, a country that has been at war with itself for decades in large part because of the drug trade. It has always made me so angry to see the producer countries demonized in the media, as though they are force feeding the drugs down the West’s throat. The truth, like you say, is absolutely NOT that simple. There is supply, and demand, and the two are often mixed. It was a truism that people in Colombia were too smart to use the drugs that it grew. Sure…perhaps there ISN’T a huge cocaine usage problem there. Just the endless violence, and the killing, and the rampant depression, alcoholism, and other diseases common in a society where there is a little hope for the future.
    Thanks, as always, for your much needed, compassionate perspective. xoxo, M

  11. There is a show here called Kid Nation-they have sent 40 kids ranging from 8-14yrs old to a place to see if they can create a successful society. It is very hollywood-but….at one point they were contemplating whether they should kill one of the chickens for meat and so many of the kids didn’t want to because they felt bad for the chicken.
    How many people (including me) would make different choices about everything if they knew what happens before. Really knew.
    Wonderful post-that transcends the drug issue (which is horrific) to a global awareness issue.

  12. susanna says:

    So sad. I can’t understand how someone can get another person hooked on drugs. It’s the “I’m not my brother’s keeper” mentality. I agree with Margaret. I think it might make a difference to those who are not yet addicted and who are at risk. If only our world didn’t disconnect with one another and instead looked for our similarities. Globally, we need to care.

  13. Laura says:

    There will always be a market for drugs (and prostitution and alcohol…etc.). Sadly, I think a lot of the effort put into stopping the drug trade is misplaced. If governments were to put as much effort (and money) into helping drug addicts and curbing use through education, then I think the problem would be more manageable. This “war on drugs” only gives more power to the drug lords–power in the wrong hands leads to violence where it wouldn’t otherwise exist.
    Just my opinion! Great blog, by the way.

  14. melanie says:

    Heroin has been around for a century or more. I can’t imagine that the production or use of it is going to end anytime soon. I know this sounds idealistic, but if they would legalize and regulate these drugs… it may at least ease some of the senseless slaughter that surrounds them.
    Love reading about your involvement here. Brings me to a place I would never have access to IRL.

  15. Rachael King says:

    Marianne – this has long been my argument against drug use. Some say that if hard drugs were legalised it would take away the human rights abuses that go hand in hand with the drug trade. I am sceptical, as always, but i guess we’ll never know.

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