Like the dry rot that eats away the wooden beams of a house, drugs can corrode the whole structure of society. For human society to function properly, it must have stable families, healthy workers, trustworthy governments, honest police, and law-abiding citizens. Drugs corrupt every one of these fundamental elements.
One reason governments have banned nonmedical drug is the damage that it does to the health of their citizens. Every year thousands of drug addicts die of an overdose. Many more die of AIDS. Indeed, some 22 percent of the world’s HIV-positive population are drug users who injected themselves with infested needles.
With good reason, at a recent United Nations conference, Nasser Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, from Qatar, warned that “the global village is about to become a communal tomb for millions of human beings as a result of the illicit drugs trade.”
But more than the health of the user is affected. About 10 percent of all babies born in the United States are exposed to an illicit drug –in most cases, cocaine –while in the womb. Painful withdrawal symptoms are not the only problem they face, for drug exposure in the womb may cause the newborns to suffer other damaging effects –both mental and physical.
EASY DRUG MONEY –THE IRRESISTIBLE LURE
Do you feel safe in your neighborhood after dark? If not, likely it is because of drug dealers. Muggings and street violence go hand in hand with drugs. Drug users often resort to crime or prostitution to finance their habit, while rival gangs fight and kill to maintain their control over drug distribution. Understandably, police in many cities consider drugs to be a factor in the majority of murders that they investigate.
In some lands, insurgents have also seen the advantages of muscling in on the lucrative narcotics trade. One large guerrilla group in South America now derives half its income from granting protection to drug traffickers. “Revenues from illicit drugs fund some of the world’s fiercest religious and ethnic conflicts, “reports the United Nations International Drug Control Programme.
TRAGEDY WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Drug users make the streets unsafe in other ways. “Driving a car under the influence of marijuana or LSD can be every bit as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol,” states Michael Kronenwetter, in his book Drugs in America. Not surprisingly, drug users are also three or four times more likely to be involved in accidents at work.
The home, however, is probably where drugs do the most damage. “Dysfunctional family life and drug-taking often go together,” states the World Drug Report. Parents who are distracted by their craving for drugs rarely provide their children with a stable home life. Infant-parent bonding –so vital during the first weeks of a child’s life –can even be inhibited.
In addition, addicted parents frequently get into debt and may steal from their friends and family or end up losing their jobs. Many children who grow up in this environment take to the streets or even get involved in drugs themselves.
Drug abuse can also lead to physical abuse –of the spouse or of the children. Cocaine, especially when combined with alcohol, can provoke violent behavior in a person who may otherwise be quite gentle. According to a Canadian survey of cocaine users, 17 percent of those questioned admitted to becoming aggressive after taking the drug. Likewise, a report on child abuse in New York City calculated that 73 percent of the children battered to death had parents who abused drugs.
CORRUPTION AND CONTAMINATION
If the home can be undermined by drugs, the same can be said of governments. In this case it is drug money, rather than drugs themselves, that poison the system. “Drugs have corrupted government officials, the police and army,” lamented an ambassador from one South American country.
He adds that the amount of money floating around is “just too great a temptation” for those who earn barely enough to survive.
In country after country, judges, mayors, policemen, and even drug-enforcement officers have been caught in the net of corruption. Politicians whose election may have been financed by drug barons turn a deaf ear when there are calls for crackdowns on drug trafficking.
More than a few of the honest officials who have courageously crusaded against drugs have been assassinated. Even our soil, our forests, and the species that inhabit them are suffering from global drug scourge.
A large percentage of opium and cocaine production is centered in two regions that are particularly sensitive to environmental damage: the rain forests of the western Amazon and those of Southeast Asia. The devastation in these places has been considerable. Even praiseworthy attempts to eradicate illegal drug crops do serious damaged because of the toxic herbicides that are used.
Who pays for all the damage done by drugs? We all do. Yes, we all pay for the lost productivity, the costs of medical treatment, the stolen or damaged property, and the cost of law enforcement. A U.S. Department of Labor report calculated that “drug use in the workplace may cost American business and industry between $75 billion and $100 billion annually…in lost time, accidents and higher health-care and workers’ compensation cost.”
All this money ultimately comes from the pockets of taxpayers and consumers. A study conducted in Germany in 1995 calculated the overall annual cost of drug abuse in that country at $120 for every citizen. In the United States, one estimated figure was even higher -$300 per head.
A far greater cost, however, is the social damage drugs do to the community. Who could put a price on the disintegration of so many families, the abuse of so many children, and the corruption of so many people?
DRUGS AND CRIME
DRUGS ARE LINKED TO CRIME IN AT LEAST FOUR WAYS:
1. Unauthorized drug possession and drug trafficking are criminal offenses in many country of the world. In the United States alone, police arrest about a million people every year on drug charges. In some countries the criminal justice system is drowning in a wave of drug offenses that the police and the courts just cannot handle.
2. Since drugs are very expensive, addicts frequently resort to crime to pay for their habit. A cocaine addict may need as much as $1,000 a week to pay for his addiction! Not surprisingly, burglaries, muggings, and prostitution mushroom when drugs take root in a community.
3. Other crimes are committed to facilitate drug trafficking, one of the most lucrative businesses on earth. “The illicit drug economy and organized crime are more or less interdependent,” explains the World Drug Report. In order to keep drugs flowing smoothly from one area to another, the traffickers try to corrupt or intimidate officials. Some even operate their own private armies. The huge profits made by drug barons also create problems. Their enormous cash inflow could easily incriminate them if the money were not laundered, so banks and lawyers are employed to cover the tracks of the drug money.
4. The effect of the drug itself may lead to criminal activity. Family members may be abused by chronic drug users. In some African countries plagued by civil war, horrendous crimes have been perpetrated by teenage soldiers high on drugs.