Spotlight: Drug addiction is a disease

Sympathise with those who have fallen into the deep gorge of consumption of illegal drugs, for drug addiction is a disease into which they have fallen into it knowingly or unknowingly.
Can there be a re-entry and an opportunity to start life all anew?
Yes, there is and what we need is not to convict them (as the case may be) but treat the disease with care, understanding and, an unmatching ‘touch of love’.
Bootleggers and illegal drug transporters, vendors and all others who facilitate sourcing, sale and purchase are criminals prima facie and need to be convicted for inducing psychotropic substances into the system and making the youth go astray.
“Most drug users do not become addicts. Literature suggests that some people are genetically more susceptible to drug addiction. According to this view it is unjust to criminalise drug addicts as he needs treatment, not punishment’’, says Hamida bint Hamed bin Said al Harthiyah, RN, MHN, MSc, faculty and PhD candidate at the Higher Institute of Health Specialties under the Ministry of Health.

In her research paper, she opines that the short-term actions include formulating a friendly taskforce which includes recovered illegal drug users and motivational speakers to conduct periodical campaigns to increase awareness in prisons on drug use and how to combat this issue.
According to her, establishing drug treatment centre in prison is essential in Oman central prison as the majority of prisoners are drug users. Drug treatment in prison would help identify all the registered cases of users of illegal drugs in prison and prioritise their needs in terms of treatment. In addition, minimising the tendency to consume drug in prison for those who exhibit this behaviour will help in achieving the result of the authorities. Moreover, it will help rehabilitate drug users who are approaching release from prison on how to overcome stresses outside prison that might cause relapse.
Establishing a referral system with cooperation between law enforcement and healthcare departments will help a newly released drug user to bid adieu to the substance. This referral system also needs to include social support that takes care of their basic needs in terms of accommodation, employment and financial supporting system, as well as counselling facilities.

“Encourage creativity to the greatest extent. Prison art is proven to be therapeutic for prisoners, particularly for those suffering from depression. Mural paintings are known to have a particularly powerful influence on prisoners and is being practised in many prisons across the world’’, Al Habsi, who has spent many years in the UK as well as Oman studying the causes and solutions for drug addiction.
The advantage of mural art is that it can be a collective venture with potential to provide a healthy form of unity among the prisoners and pride in their accomplishment. The external walls of prison are a readily available medium for large mural art in the creation of which everyone can collaborate. The murals could even be judged from time to time by professional artists and the best ones given awards and published online.
Books and periodicals should be easily accessible to the prisoners for their entertainment and education and the free healthcare system such as bed capacity in different hospitals in Oman for people with addiction need to be improved.

“For long-term action plan, we need to review the policy of imposing financial fines among penalties for users of illegal drugs who have been imprisoned for using drugs or those who have possession of drugs for their personal consumption.” Likewise, drug courts need to be established and lawyers to give free legal assistance for users of illegal drugs from low-income families who are unable to afford legal expenses should be appointed.
“Establish joint and collaborative work and referral system between legal courts and healthcare so that it becomes easier for drug users to seek de-addiction therapies. We should have a comprehensive health plan that includes regular mandatory checks for drugs and mandatory treatment for those who have been referred by the court. The health plan should be comprehensive and include professionals that are specialised in psychological and physiological health needs’’, says Hamida who has worked among the prisoners, interacting with them on a regular basis as part of her studies.