Advice to gov't: Address context of drug use, don't stigmatize

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 10 2017 05:10 PM | Updated as of Feb 10 2017 08:36 PM

MANILA- Addressing the illegal drug problem can best be done by contextualizing the reason behind a person's drug use, an expert said on Friday.

Dr. Lee Yarcia, a consultant for Nobox—an organization that addresses drug use and drug policy issues—said some studies have shown that most of the people who use drugs are do so to perform daily tasks.

“The reason why some people use drugs is not really because there’s a moral failing for example or they’re evil and corrupt individuals but really we look at the context of the individual. There are reasons such as economic reasons that makes them use drugs,” Yarcia said on "[email protected]"

Yarcia cited the study “Pampagilas: Methamphetamine in the everyday economic lives of underclass male youths in a Philippine port,” as proof that many drug users, especially those using ‘shabu,’ are functional individuals who take drugs due to either heavy work load, confidence issues, or economic reasons.

Since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte, the government has undertaken an intensive campaign against illegal drugs which has been marked by thousands of deaths.

Local and international human rights advocates have cried foul over Duterte’s war on drugs, and have repeatedly urged the government to shift its method in addressing the problem.

Nobox Executive Director Nez Feria added that not all drug users should be immediately discounted as addicts, and called for an understanding on the different factors that can influence drug use.

“The way we need to address it (drug use) also is not only to look at the individual but looking at the whole environment and context,” she said.

Both experts are calling for a community-based approach in addressing the drug problem in the country so as not to stigmatize drug users.

“An individual can be helped with the context they are at,” Yarcia said, highlighting the need for drug users to still be able to do their daily tasks while undergoing assistance.

Yarcia said drug users can be provided counseling, education support, and links to livelihood institutions in their own local communities.

“You don’t have to take them away from the context they are in but you have to meet them where they are at,” he said.

“Engage with them, connect with them, and you can only do that if they don’t feel stigmatized,” Feria added.