Seychelles is one of the most beautiful and also the safest place in the world, which is one of the reasons why so many tourists continue to flock to our shores every year. They see our islands as one of the greenest as our flora and fauna have not been greatly affected by pollution or global warming!
But if we go around these days, one of the striking scenes around is vast number of invasive species of creepers which have sprung up almost everywhere, such as the ‘patatran’. These invasive species are very aggressive and strong so as they crave for nutrients and dominance they not only spread, but have a tendency to suppress or cover up the original plants which eventually kills them.
The result which is evident to all is that some of our original vegetation have already gone extinct or is on the verge of extinction. This is a worrying situation since these invasive plants have already colonized some if not almost all of our lowlands and marshes. If nothing is done we will eventually lose our vegetation identity.
The same scenario is exactly what can be compared to the drug problem in Seychelles. A motion tabled in the National Assembly recently was not hotly, but passionately debated by members from both sides of the divide. This was the first time that partisan politics were shoved aside in the discussion of a motion which was compared to a ‘a gigantic monster with many legs”. This description cannot be far from the truth because the drug problem is now so complex that it also be compared to an octopus with many tentacles some of which are firmly entrenched into almost all segments of our society.
The drug problem is a worldwide phenomenon encompassing all countries and borders, but the sad truth is, there is no worldwide solution simply because many powerful nations do not really want a solution. In some countries for example, the drug problem simply fuels the arms trade which is also a lucrative and sophisticated and worldwide enterprise. The same macroeconomic environment which has facilitated the growth and development of global legitimate businesses has also provided the opportunity for drug producers and traffickers to organize themselves on a global scale, to produce in developing countries, to distribute, sell and launder their dirty money in all parts of the world.
So if there is a solution, it will definitely not come from these countries unless all wars end or consummation ceased abruptly. Surely these countries do not care about the suffering of small islands States such as ours, so we cannot depend on their assistance, but even if they ever did, their offer would be seen hypocritical.
Like the exotic species, drugs in plants were brought into our country a long time ago and like ‘patatran’ spread around through its seeds with the wind. One of the first to be introduced in Seychelles was in the form of Marijuana which is derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant. Marijuana is generally classified as a “soft drug” or hallucinogen because it can produce perceptual distortions or mild hallucinations, especially in high doses or when used by susceptible individuals.
The use of Marijuana exploded throughout the so-called swinging 1960s and the 1970s, with the advent of the Rastafarian Movement in Jamaica. One of the maestros of this movement was Robert Nesta Marley dubbed “Bob Marley” and he propagated the use of Marijuana through his Reggae Music which was immensely popular at the time and has remained till this very day. A lot of Seychellois youth who appreciated this type of tune and rhythm joined his bandwagon and Reggae music became immensely popular everywhere, but evidently that had created sort of new cultural movement which did not go down too well with the rest of the population at the time, who resented this new trend.
To the community, they generated bad publicity. Incidentally Marijuana was outlawed by the authorities and the Rastafarian movement in Seychelles went underground and thus continues to remain. However Marijuana remains the second most widely used illegal drug after Heroin and the abuse of Marijuana is the one of the most common of all the substance abuse disorders involving illicit drugs in Seychelles.
As time went by and with development, various other types of drugs found its way into the country and the tendency was gradually altered from soft to hard drugs, but one which has stamped its authority is Heroin. Studies conducted has indicated that tobacco, alcohol, Marijuana and Heroin have become the most widely abused substances by children and adolescents, but amongst those, Heroin has shown an alarming increase in use, especially by younger adolescents and that is a worrying trend indeed. Studies have also shown that in 80% percent of our families, one member is a drug addict and in that respect no district has been spared.
Heroin, which is the most widely used opiate in the world, is a powerful depressant that can create a euphoric rush which last for a relatively short period. Users of such drug claim that it is so pleasurable it can eradicate any thought of food or sex. Heroin was developed in 1875 by Chemist Heinrich Dreser during his pursuit for a drug that would relieve pain as effectively as Morphine, but without causing addiction which is why it was called heroin. Unfortunately his research has led to disastrous consequences because Heroin does lead to physiological dependence which is why so many of our youth have been caught in this vicious quagmire today.
In fact most heroin addicts started with marijuana, and like it was stated by Ramkalawan in the Assembly nowadays marijuana is mixed with heroin to benefit the dealers.
Heroin is most commonly injected into a vein (mainlining), and the positive effects are immediate. There is a powerful rush that lasts from 5 to 15 minutes and a state of satisfaction, euphoria, and well-being that lasts from 3 to 5 hours. In this state, all positive drives seem satisfied since all negative feelings of guilt, tension, and anxiety disappear. With prolonged usage, addiction quickly develops and many physiologically dependent people support their habits through dealing (selling heroin), prostitution, stealing, or selling stolen goods amongst other nasty habits.
Since Heroin is a depressant drug in nature, its chemical effects do not directly stimulate criminal or aggressive behavior but the manner in which an addict will behave to satisfy his/her hunger when the effects wear off will depict otherwise.
However, the epidemical manner in which the Heroin addiction is spreading locally has given a new thinking to the argument that drug abuse has gradually become a public health issue, rather than a criminal activity, and that has renewed the debate over existing drug policies by the government. For instance, the theory that drug addiction is a neurological disorder, not a moral flaw or criminal act, has caused some to view addicts less as criminals and more as sick individuals who need treatment and compassion. To this end, the government recently approved measures that give minor drug offenders the choice between rehabilitation and prison. Also, “harm reduction,” an approach that focuses not on preventing drug abuse, but instead on reducing the risks associated with drug use, is gaining attention as an alternative to our hard line policy on drug addiction.
Government is seriously looking into rehabilitating the addicts, the youngest being only 11 years old.
One of the most common types of treatment the ministry of health currently encourages is via the use of Methadone. Over the years research has indicated that drug addiction treatment, especially Methadone, is quite effective in reducing not only drug use but also in reducing the spread of infections like HIV/AIDS and in decreasing criminal behavior. This type of treatment benefits not only the individual patient but also both public health and public safety, however one of its setbacks is that the patient is prone to relapse the moment he is released in the same community where he caught the addiction in the first place. Now government is adopting a new strategy whereby they follow up on the addicts and the treatment is longer than before.
Based upon several researches it is impossible to eliminate completely intravenous drug use in society, but while recovery from addiction was still sought as a long-term goal, N.E.P.’s have been designed to protect addicts from these viruses in the meantime, and also to prevent secondary transmission to sexual partners and; in the case of pregnant women, transmission to developing infants. As a result needle exchanges have since been credited with a decrease in the number of new H.I.V. infections occurring among drug users in many countries where this program has been implemented. In that respect, the government of the day is under pressure to implement the program.
The legalizing of Marijuana is another suggestion but is also prone to debate since most people are opposing it. Legalising of such drug has had mixed results in every respective country that have implemented it, and in many have not produced the anticipated resultls. Drug abuse causes multiple problems for many small island States, countries and communities. The medical and psychological effects are very obvious in all sectors of our society. On a health perspective, addicts abuse their bodies, neglect their families, relatives and their health and so eventually require expensive treatment for long periods or hospitalisation in some instances. In many cases, drug abuse can lead to overdose or serious commonly related cases, such as AIDS or Hepatitis amongst others which very often leads to death. Another side effect is crime because people who consume drugs at times become crazy and irrational which often causes harm and danger to themselves and others.
Education however is one of the many ways to tackle this issue, so to that end very young need to be made aware of the effects of drugs so that they can avoid this problem.
Children need to be told at home and in school about the dangers and need for avoiding drugs since studies have shown that someone who gets to the age 21 without smoking, using drugs or abusing alcohol, never to do so. Parents, NGO’s, teachers and clergy need to send teens a clear message: Stay away from the pot something that the National Council for Children and other NGO’s are currently at the forefront as they organize several activities in partnership with the schools.
Support for substance abuse education, prevention, and treatment must come from all sides: from families, schools, neighborhood, religious denominations, community groups, policymakers, and health care professionals. Treatment resources for adolescent drug abusers need to be increased, and treatment programs should offer a multifaceted approach that involves a broad coalition of community resources, including juvenile justice and social service agencies, schools, mental health professionals, and primary care initiatives.
The government could also use infomercials to educate their citizens something which is frequently undertaken by several other NGO’s but the tempo must increase. Religious denominations should come together and formally denounce the scourge as well as participate actively in the various activities initiated by the government or NGO’s since the drug problem greatly reduces the attendance in their churches.
However one of the most important measures to deal with the drug scourge will the targeting the “Drug Barons” who are making vast fortunes at the expense of the lives of our young adolescents. These individuals do not consume drugs and neither does their children yet they continue to mingle amongst us disguising themselves as the model citizen. They have a sophisticated network at their disposal which enables them to import their drugs through our vast territorial waters, marketing as well as legalize their dirty money via our banking system. Some of them through their vast connections possess several assets since they do not have legitimate businesses and they cannot bank their hard cash. Seizing their vast fortunes via the banks and the declaration of their extensive assets is one way to curtail their expansion something which was generally consented in the National Assembly and seriously needs to be considered since a majority of them are known by the authorities. Now that the NDEA has a new head and new responsibilities, it is anticipated that more of these drug lords will be apprehended and their fortune and assets seized.
But with all the policies taken by the government such as education, sensitization, treatment and preventive measures initiated by several NGO’s in place, the decision to use drugs amongst adolescents is a matter of choice. We are all responsible for the choices that we make and we definitely do not makes our first choices under the influence of drugs, so we all know what bad choices are before we make them, since the consequences are there for all to see. Our choices are free but we have to ensure that innocent people are not affected by the bad choices we make.
However since the problem necessitates a national response as stated by President Danny Faure, it is hoped that with utter determination, the menace of drugs can be fought but that could be a long and hard struggle which will require time, policies, resources, and most important totally new mindset and approach to the problem.
The opposition on the other hand must refrain from using the drug issue to their advantage in trying to gain the hearts and minds of their supporters especially at their political rallies as they have done in the past. Parti Lepep did not invent the drug problem and the system does not condone drugs, in fact the party, through its government has a long history of fighting against it. We know that a huge percentage of LDS supporters in every district are drug users and that is probably why the majority of their MNA’s have inherited constituencies were drug trafficking and addiction are most rampant.
Even if the opposition leader in the assembly who is a priest has publically distanced himself from the matter, we know for sure that his district is one of the most drug infested and over the years he has done nothing other than distancing himself from those addicts; at least until the election campaigns every five years when he needs their votes.
Finally the public should also take note that over the years, the opposition politicians have never made their presence felt in the various activities organized by several NGO’s who are fighting against the drug scourge notably amongst the very young of society. In fact Mr. Ramkalawan himself has decided to build a huge wall around his residence at St. Louis which is surrounded by drug addicts and dealers, but as his LSD counterparts in the assembly have stated; “no wall however high will be enough to protect anyone from the contagious and impending drug incursion”….that is unless we all work together. One thing is for certain; fighting against the scourge of drugs will be our legacy to our future generation even if we cannot foresee whether we will be successful or not in this quest, but it would be cowardly of us to just to sit and do nothing, even if we had the opportunity to do something against it.