Thursday, July 25, 2013
Pope to drug addicts
I was very pleased that the Bishop of Rome visited a hospital for drug addicts, pleased too that he said the Church was with drug addicts and pleased that he felt able to say that though difficult it is possible to break addiction. Here, not a few of my parishioners are recovering addicts of one sort or another, faith, repentance, a sense that "there is a Power greater" than them and their dependency helps.
Never the less death by overdose, death by suicide are pretty common in Brighton amongst the young, as is the involvement of addicts in crime to feed their addiction. Prostitution, theft, broken relationships, damaged children are very much part of the lives of addicts. The whole course of drugs from there production in places like Afghanistan in the third world, through to their transportation and distribution by smugglers and dealers is about exploitation of the poor. Tin pot regimes, failing economies, organisations from the IRA to the Taliban, and various Mafias all exploit drug users, all prey on their weakness. Invariable the dealers themselves are addicts, dependant on exploiting others and encouraging theirs friends to become addicts in order to pay for their fix.
In Portugal there is a social experiment to treat drug addiction as a 'health issue' and to decriminalise users, to treat them as victims of organised crime in need of the mercy of the State, various South American governments have been looking to follow a similar programme, Yesterday the Holy Father, like Pope Benedict when he visited another Brazilian facility for recovering drug addicts, said he was not in favour of such a course of action, he knows the South American situation better than me, but I am uncomfortable with his apparent blanket condemnation of decriminalisation.
My experience is that a habit which can easily cost a thousand pounds a week or more in Brighton, places the addict in a situation in which he or she is enthral to organised crime either pushing drugs themselves or in theft and prostitution or smuggling drugs from country to country. It is the huge expense that causes the problems. The Portuguese experiment makes drugs available on prescription which means that addiction is separated directly from the murky underworld of crime and also means that addicts can be treated. The major success of the Portuguese experiment seems to be that addicts are not turned into pushers and dealers and the pyramid selling scheme which makes international drug crime so profitable is undercut at its root. It takes the prophet out of it.
I would have been happier if Francis had taken an overview of the international drug scene starting from the exploitation of impoverished poppy growers by local warlords. He might well be right that in South America taking a more liberal attitude to drug addiction might not work but in the rest of the world simply doing what we are doing does nothing for those whose lives are destroyed by those who make vast amounts of money from the broken damaged, frequently early ended lives of addicts. I am actually sick of the suicides, overdoses and misery in the lives of the addicts I come across.
Pray for the addicts in Brighton.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake