Drug Abuse Is a Social Barometer

In a recent UN report, a special commission concluded that “drug legalization and decriminalization would be more efficient than an anti-drug war.”

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published its latest report World Drug Report 2011 on June 23.

Valdaiclub.com interview with Ella Pamfilova, the head of the Civil Society for Children and Civil Dignity movements and the former head of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights.

What do you think about a recent U.N. report, where a special commission concluded that “drug legalization and decriminalization would be more efficient than an anti-drug war?

I am strongly against it. In my opinion, this is a respectful international organization admitting its inability to fight a serious threat to humankind.

If we step on this road, the next move will be legalizing prostitution, pedophilia, arms trade and terrorism. If while facing such a serious problem, we find that we cannot cope with it, this does not mean we should consider legalization. It is a danger for the health of a huge number of young people. I suppose that the UN has not been able to control transnational criminal syndicates stimulating and promoting this shadow pseudo-consumer culture, and they won, which is a dangerous and disturbing sign.

How do other countries see this problem?

In fact, not only drug producers and dealers are involved in the drug business. There is an enormous shadow drug culture attracting young people to places like night clubs and this gets them hooked. It is a huge industry that must be undermined by international forces, internal law enforcement agencies, Interpol and the global community.

By giving it the green light, the UN quailed and admitted that the organization cannot change the situation, which is very sad.

Different countries have tried different methods.

Drug dealing in China, for instance, is punishable by the death penalty. The country experienced a tragedy and now the government is harsh about it. You know about the recent case involving a Russian citizen selling drugs. Now he faces capital punishment. As China continues to open up, it feels the threat looming once again. This threat forces it to toughen the punishment and this brings certain results.

There is another example. The Netherlands legalized soft drugs. Independent research shows that this measure did not help to reduce drug abuse, especially hard drug use. This was the first step toward a total absence of authority and this step is not the last. It will not solve the problem because soft drugs pave the way for removing psychological constraints, and give the green light to synthetic drug abuse. Not all individuals are strong enough to be mentally and morally immune to this threat.

The price is too high for us to wait until the fittest survive, to wait until a young person overcomes this stage of youth rebellion and becomes a normal adult. In the majority of cases, the consequences are too grave. Any moral and legal barriers are destroyed and the synthetic drug production goes completely out of control. To legalize soft drugs means to let them destroy a personality and do irreversible harm to both physical and mental health. It is a very dangerous path.

How does Russia fight drug abuse? Could China’s experience be successful in Russia?

China’s experience would not be successful in Russia, at least while the law enforcement agencies and the judicial system are in such a state. I suppose a complex approach must be taken.

If the death penalty is banned in Russia, then it must be replaced with the life sentence. The punishment for pedophiles and drug dealers must be the strictest of all. They must get the toughest possible sentence. However, before this change is made, we must ensure that there is a fair judicial system, as well as soundly functioning law enforcement bodies. We will not see any results until we fight corruption.

Speaking about police reform, I believe it would be just to toughen the punishment and, at the same time, create conditions in which the punishment would be inevitable, fair and justified. There is the Federal Service for Drug Control, as well as social organizations, which is involved in rehabilitating drug addicts and preventing drug abuse in Russia. But there is no system at all. These are separate disconnected components.

Russia recently signed the Customs Union agreement and opened its borders with Kazakhstan. Now, we should think how we can block any new drug routes that will emerge. There are regional programs, but I do not know of any comprehensive federal program. We must think about young people’s leisure. We need theaters and libraries, but above all we need motivation for learning and sports to minimize the danger of young people getting hooked on drugs.

Drug addiction indicates the condition of the society and the state. It indicates the lifestyle and moral values. Drug abuse is like a thermometer showing society’s temperature.

If we want to solve the drug abuse problem and other social issues, we must somehow break the system’s deadlock. Lawmakers must hold responsibility for their actions and be fully accountable to the people and their peers. Only then will legislative power reflect social attitudes, instead of automatically approving the laws that the government lobbies for.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.