Drug addiction is a worldwide problem, and can have massive side effects for both the user, and the people they care about. However, the term ‘drug’ does not simply cover substances such as heroin or cocaine. The term can also cover substances such as nicotine, alcohol or caffeine, as well as medicines and painkillers.
Street connected children in Jinja, Uganda raised the question of whether drugs should be banned for the subject of their June live debate. This is due to the increasing presence of dangerous drugs on Ugandan streets, and their availability to vulnerable people such as children or the homeless.
Drugs are a Danger
One of the children engaged HIV/AIDS Alliance UK in a debate after their comment that criminalising drugs only increases the risks to users who do not seek out help or services out of fear of persecution. Odere in Uganda disagreed stating that drugs should be banned as users become a danger to the community. HIV/AIDS Alliance UK came back with the point that many other countries have drug control policies, and that despite the number of years such policies have been in play, they have not achieved their aims.
The most common concern seemed to be that drugs needed to be banned due to the physical danger that drug users pose to themselves, their families and their communities. David in Uganda argued for the banning of drugs due to the long-term health effects of persistent use such as various cancers. Aphan from Kenya stated that drugs such as alcohol can lower inhibitions and cloud the mind making sexual abuse more common. Issues were also raised regarding mental health problems arising from continued drug use, such as stunted development of the brain, but also social development. Oboth argued that persistent drug use may result in exhaustion, causing a person to under perform or miss work, which may result in him losing his source of income. Derrick agreed and said that constantly spending money on drugs will stop a person from saving their money they could potentially spend on school or their home.
Another issue was that persistent drug use can lead to a life of criminality, especially if the user is near the poverty line and does not have disposable income. They may resort to stealing to fuel their addiction or physical violence to obtain what they want. Fear for the surrounding environment was also raised, as the use of ‘mafuta‘ aviation fuel as a recreational drug can severely impact those around you due to the strength of its fumes.
Drugs Can Have Some Benefits
Those who said that drugs should not be banned from society included children such as John, David and Ibra who all agreed that drugs can give you energy, which is necessary if you are to be performing physical tasks. Ashiraf and Oboth both raised the point that many people supplement their income by selling drugs, and if they were banned, would fall into poverty and suffer for it.
An interesting debate also rose around medicine and how banning drugs would cause considerable pain to so many who are reliant on medication to survive. Points were raised regarding large pharmaceutical companies profiting from medicines and drug use and a separate debate formed around whether medicines are good for us as humans. Steve from the UK pointed out that our ancestors did not rely so heavily upon medication as we do now whilst Okot from Uganda mentioned the dangers of drug use when they are taken without recommendation or supervision from a doctor. The debate also considered the naming of drugs and how we classify and categorise these potentially harmful substances.
Veronika from the Czech Republic raised the interesting point that many things in our society can cause the same if not more harm such as overuse of sugar, and addictions to things such as betting or gaming. John argued that items such as sugar are used in day-to-day life so should not be banned whilst Oboth and Alvin both agreed that these things have never been classified as drugs and so they cannot factor in the debate. David also agreed stating that drugs are chemical substances that when taken cause harm to the individual.
The Votes Are In
Many points were raised and debated throughout the time we were live. We conducted an online poll on social media where users were required to submit a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to the question. That poll ended with 20% voting yes drugs should be banned and 80% voting no they should not. The opinions on our debating website were much closer. 43% of comments said banning drugs would still cause harm and other options should be considered first, but the 57% majority decided that drugs are so much of a harm both on the users themselves and those surrounding them, that a blanket ban is the only possible way forward in terms of rehabilitation and eventual recovery.
Did you find this interesting? Please share your thoughts below in the comments.
Why not see all the ideas from this month’s discussion and join in next month’s debate? Children living on the streets of Uganda would love to hear from you.