Two words, “irresponsibly permissive”, tell a story

How did this country and the U.S., become such drug-addicted societies? A recent report states that the painkiller, Oxycontin is now the number one drug used by addicts in North America. But whether it’s this drug, crack cocaine, crystal meth or others, the result is always the same, wasted lives, needless deaths, crime and tons of taxpayers’ money that should be used for productive purposes. It’s a cop-out when ministers of health claim there’s no easy answer.

What’s appalling is how Oxycontin , so ill used, is so easily available in Ontario alone.

In 2008 provincial pharmacies dispensed prescriptions for Oxycontin that were more than double the national average. Then in 2009-10 the Ontario Drug plan processed 3.9 million opioid claims made by 776,000 people. The population of Ontario is just over 12 million. And this is just one province!

What’s gone wrong? Some doctors prescribe Oxycontin for sprained ankles when less potent drugs would do. Addicts also locate doctors most likely to renew their prescriptions. But surely these doctors should be able to distinguish between addicted patients and those who have genuine need for a painkiller. If they don’t, they should be retrained or lose their license.

Some argue this problem can be solved by more treatment centres, more trained personnel, improved housing, etc, etc. I agree this is ideal, but it does nothing to stop the root cause of addiction, particularly easy access to illegal drugs.

What would work? Several years ago I interviewed drug officials in Singapore. I’ve never forgotten the two words they used to describe the incompetence of politicians in this country. They stated they had become “irresponsibly permissive”.

Years ago Singaporean politicians committed the same sin. Drug traffickers were allowed free range and heroin addiction became a major problem for young people. But there’s a major difference between Singapore and this country. Unlike our gutless politicians, Singapore had a visionary President Lee Kuan Yew who took drastic action to stop the trafficking of heroin.

Lee Kuan Yew introduced the death penalty for major drug traffickers. Lesser drug offences were punishable by caning.

But the government also realized this policy was doomed to fail if drugs continued to be easily available. So drug infected areas were flooded with police 24 hours a day for up to nine months. Addicts were picked up and sent to treatment centres. Major drug dealers were hung, others imprisoned (health authorities in Canada and the U.S. take note).

Drug dealers quickly got Lee Kuan Yew’s message. The new laws were harsh and police intended to carry them out. In effect, never show your teeth if you’re not prepared to bite.

I’ve heard ad nauseam that harsh punishment does not deter crime. This is the perpetual cry of do-gooders. Singapore officials retorted that only 5% of those who were caned became repeat offenders. Even Aristotle, the father of medicine, preached that “punishment is a form of medicine.”

Our week-kneed politicians who have no idea how to curb drug addiction should visit Singapore. It would be tax dollars well spent. En route they would get the first powerful message when a small card is handed to them aboard the plane prior to landing. It warns, “Death to drug traffickers”.

While in Singapore they would not see the disgusting drug scenes that have become a part of so many North American cities. Drug dealers dispense their illegal wares in broad daylight while others inject themselves on the street with impunity with whatever drug is available.

I can already hear the critics howling “blue murder” about the Singapore solution. But they need not worry as it will not happen in North America. Unfortunately, there is no Lee Kuan Yew who has the vision and intestinal fortitude to enact tough legislation. Rather, we have namby-pamby officials who cannot see the medical and social chaos of a ‘no action’ plan. We cannot cure all those addicts who are now a part of our society. But the Singapore plan could stop their cancerous growth.

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