Drug addiction in Duterte’s bloody war on drugs: A crime or a disease? 

Much of the criticism surrounding Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs can be pointed to how he looks at drug addiction.

The administration’s policies to solve the drug menace appear to be based on the president’s belief that drug addiction is a crime, and criminals need to be penalized, and in many times be killed, even without due process, to protect other people.

This policy rationalizes the killings of accused drug addicts, even as young as 9  years old, a policy that strips the accused and those guilty of drug addiction of their prospects of redemption, rehabilitation, and the help they need to start a new life.

What is drug addiction?

Here is important information as presented by drugabuse.gov:

Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.

Brain changes that occur over time with drug use challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. This is why drug addiction is also a relapsing disease.

Relapse is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop. Relapse indicates the need for more or different treatment.

Most drugs affect the brain’s reward circuit by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. This overstimulation of the reward circuit causes the intensely pleasurable “high” that leads people to take a drug again and again.

Over time, the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine, which reduces the high that the person feels compared to the high they felt when first taking the drug—an effect known as tolerance. They might take more of the drug, trying to achieve the same dopamine high.

No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to drugs. A combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors influences risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction.

Drug addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed.

More good news is that drug use and addiction are preventable. Teachers, parents, and health care providers have crucial roles in educating young people and preventing drug use and addiction.

Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and changes in the brain, which can be long-lasting. These changes in the brain can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who use drugs. Drug addiction is also a relapsing disease. Relapse is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop.

The path to drug addiction begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs. But over time, a person’s ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised. Seeking and taking the drug becomes compulsive. This is mostly due to the effects of long-term drug exposure on brain function. Addiction affects parts of the brain involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and control over behavior.

Addiction is a disease that affects both the brain and behavior.

Can drug addiction be treated?

Yes, but it’s not simple. Because addiction is a chronic disease, people can’t simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Most patients need long-term or repeated care to stop using completely and recover their lives.

Addiction treatment must help the person do the following:

•stop using drugs

•stay drug-free

•be productive in the family, at work, and in society

Principles of effective treatment

Based on scientific research since the mid-1970s, the following key principles should form the basis of any effective treatment program:

•Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.

•No single treatment is right for everyone.

•People need to have quick access to treatment.

•Effective treatment addresses all of the patient’s needs, not just his or her drug use.

•Staying in treatment long enough is critical.

•Counseling and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of treatment.

•Medications are often an important part of treatment, especially when combined with behavioral therapies.

•Treatment plans must be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.

•Treatment should address other possible mental disorders.

•Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of treatment.

•Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective.

•Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously.

•Treatment programs should test patients for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases as well as teach them about steps they can take to reduce their risk of these illnesses.

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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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