Hazy understanding: Pushing the drug debate towards stigmatising users doesn’t help tackle addiction

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October 5, 2020 4:45 AM

Indian leaders have pushed the drug debate towards stigmatising users; that doesn’t help tackle addiction

Indeed, their stigmatisation of drug users would suggest they have very little understanding of the public health position on drug use. (Representative image)Indeed, their stigmatisation of drug users would suggest they have very little understanding of the public health position on drug use. (Representative image)

While Indian politicians wage a proxy battle against each other over the ‘stories’ of drug-use—pot, blow, everything in between and beyond—by celebrities that TV news channels dredge up by the dozen, the media and the people of New Zealand have simply shrugged off prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s admission to having toked when she was younger. Ardern, bear in mind, faces a national election soon, and marijuana legalisation is a hot-button partisan issue. In India, where one incarnate of cannabis (aka marijuana) is treated as holy, politicians and the media have only projected ‘holier than thou’ posturing on recreational drug use.

Indeed, their stigmatisation of drug users would suggest they have very little understanding of the public health position on drug use.

Perhaps, India needs its own Bill Clinton. Clinton, during his first presidential campaign, was posed ‘a question of surgical precision’ over past drug use. To many, his answer would have sounded absurd—yes, he had smoked pot, but he hadn’t inhaled. That he went on to become president, and that George W Bush after him didn’t face any significant electoral repercussions when he was outed over drug use, made it possible for a Barack Obama to own up to his own recreational use of drugs. The list of leaders and achievers who have experimented with drugs is long. This is not to advocate drug use, but to point out that stigmatisation of users does nothing to beat the problem of addiction.

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