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MINDANAWON ABROAD: On Drug Addiction, Oplan TokHang and Vigilante Killings

NEW YORK (MindaNews / 04 March) — A drug addict mother shot in front of her children prompted me to write with hopes that this will reach families, schools, churches, drug dealers, vigilante killers, our police officers and General Bato de la Rosa, a fellow MSUan (Mindanao State University) whom I respect.

Let me be clear. I fully support the anti-drug campaign but in a humane way. Addicts who recover become strong assets to the community and YES- there is a highway to recovery.

Drugs addiction is a disease, mostly caused by problems due to poverty and deep seated issues that affect a human being mentally, physically and emotionally .

Many people turn to drugs not because they want to get high but because they want to fill in a deep longing for acceptance, to feel valuable, to feel loved. Most turn to drugs as a cheap means to escape pangs of hunger, to escape the pain of no gainful employment, most with no future in sight due to extreme poverty and lack of skills and opportunities.

Some have to deal with deep emotional issues like separation, death of a loved one, abuse – to cure a loneliness and feeling of hopelessness so deep only they understand. Drugs become a cheap escape coupled with the social acceptance offered by fellow addicts who understand what they undergo. Fellow drug addicts become a support system where society views them as “walang kuwenta.”

Policy makers and enforcement officers need to understand one thing – if addiction is a disease, there is a cure and that nobody should be killed for this reason. Killing will only create a bitter society with deeper problems to deal with in the long run due to trauma.

Understanding the timeline to wellness is crucial. Many try to kick off addiction but fail because they are not aware of the critical periods of the withdrawal process where the first 30 days is the most crucial.

The first few weeks without drugs in the system is characterized by extreme depression because the brain has been depleted of dopamine or the happy hormone. This is a period where most suicides occur because aside from the depression, lack of sleep and nutrition and very low self value/esteem, anxiety and hopelessness kick in. The lack of education for families to render support due to ignorance exerts too much pressure – addicts take the path to destruction.

The first few weeks of withdrawal require medical supervision where mood stabilizers are given to counter depression, sleep aid and proper nutrition is provided. Research shows that after a month, they generally begin to feel better but the craving continues. Mega nutrition becomes necessary to restore brain power affected by drug use.

Good news is research shows that after three to six months, the craving for the drug becomes less. It is a must that drug supply should be cut off permanently, otherwise the cycle continues. Narcotics Anonymous provides a support network for addicts to prod them to full recovery. Sponsors are available to personally render support.

Addressing the root cause of the problem and why an addict turned to drugs in the first place ensures full recovery. This is where counseling, mentoring, coaching, life planning and discipleship come in. Again, trained professionals are needed in this area.

The Philippines has the support system in place – closely knit family ties and church. A massive education and training of professionals can be made. Support group in churches and schools can come in – not as pious holier than thou teachers/mentors but like Jesus himself has personified when he washed the feet of his disciples.

We need servants who are able to empathize, to understand the deeper problems addicts encounter, the loneliness they feel, the agony and the burden they bear. We need mentors who have felt how it is to be hungry, to be jobless, without nothing much in life to hope and live for.

We need enforcers who understand the value of life more than the promotion or monetary award they get from killing an addict. We need to build a society that brings about healing not hatred.

We call on our police to stop the violence – see addicts as needing help not judgment. We call on families to get educated – to love more. We call on drug suppliers to stop their greed for money at the expense of lives and society. We call on government to work on common good so that poverty and the need to deal drugs may not proliferate. We call on everyone to be a support system – not a judge.

We call on everyone to practice what they go to Church for. To love fully is the capacity to appreciate the beauty of life God has given to each of us made manifest by our active service to others.

The 12 steps to addiction recovery which is accepted worldwide is a wholistic approach used by professionals where addicts turn to God as the healer and redeemer. What better cure and hope than to feel the love of One who loves unconditionally.

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Carolina Villanueva Peralta of Kiamba, South Cotabato (now part of Sarangani province) presently resides in New York but is actively involved in development efforts in her Sarangani. She is a member of the Board of Kiamba Sarangani Development Foundation Inc. (USA). She believes that peace is attainable in Mindanao]

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