The problem of narcotics is a much deeper problem than our politicians, our psychiatrists, our journalists and our religious leaders seem to make it. The manner in which they deal with it is very reflective of the way they approach most of our social and political problems. They endeavour to deal with the effects of the problem while ignoring its causes. Such an attempted solution is doomed to failure.

As regards marijuana, the big question posed is: To legalize or not to legalize. This is better expressed as: To decriminalize or not to decriminalize. But, my dear people, this does not solve the problem. We do not seem to be able to overcome the myth that the only way to secure a valued ideal is to brandish the legal stick or to threaten people with punishment. After all, we are human beings endowed with intelligence. We are empowered to carve our destiny. The way to deal with people is not to threaten them with legal action or punishment, first of all, but to educate them.

Now the problem with drugs is the result of a tendency which is rampant in our society to cushion our troubled lives. It is the propensity to rid ourselves of interior or exterior pain by any means available. It is to relieve ourselves of anything which gives us discomfort. The "feel good" syndrome, a basic ingredient of our culture, mars the beauty of our lives.

This syndrome stems from the myopic belief that life is solely for pleasure and enjoyment, for ease and comfort. However, we need to learn that suffering is part and parcel of a happy life. Suffering in itself is not a bad thing. It builds up the human spirit. Suffering is a training and it is indeed necessary for personal development. Suffering, as such, is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.

Today there is a pill for every ill. And many are there who grab at it. Let us learn to cope with the difficulties of life without quick recourse to the pill.

There is much hypocrisy in society. Many people will argue that all kinds of drugs must be banned. However, they take great care to cushion their lives against all hardships, inadequacies and limitations, even to the detriment of their fellow-men. They might well drive people into taking narcotic drugs by their inhumanity.

So this takes us to the proper way to deal with drug addicts. It is our problem. We all must deal with it. We are all very much responsible for the kind of society in which we live. And because we are not part of the solution, we are often part of the problem.

Drug addicts are not necessarily criminals. They are not necessarily wicked people. They are not consciously seeking to destroy themselves. They are part of a society which is inhumane, a society which in many ways is self-destructive.

How many drug addicts have ever known family love? How many were not maintained by their fathers? How many were "born by accident" , as one mentally challenged man described himself to me? How many were not catered for in their youth by the social system in which they lived? How many did not receive the basic human care that everyone needs?

Some who enjoy political authority may very well be in part responsible for drug addiction. When they victimize their non-supporters, they implicitly minimize the ability of these persons to provide for their children, who might be led to adopt unsocial habits, for example, smoking pot.

How many drug addicts suffered brain damage because of a lack of proper nourishment or because they sometimes obtained a head-bashing at home? How many eventually turned to drugs because of low self-esteem, in an endeavour to boost their image? So we all need a revolution in our thinking. A partial, superficial, merely academic approach to the problem of drug addiction will do us no good. Making laws as such cannot produce a good society. Punishment does not necessarily secure good morals. There is a saying that " a man who is convinced against his will is of his opinion still."

We need to undo a lot of damage which people have suffered in society. The road to the solution of drug addiction is a very long one. Education in our schools and in the rest of society must be given to combat drug addiction. Large sums of money will have to be spent on rehabilitation. But, more than that, a firm endeavour will have to be undertaken to change the whole attitude of society to people and their problems.

Narcotic drugs are not the problem. Drug users are the problem. But those who criminalize drug users are also part of the problem. The "decent gentlemen" who sit comfortably in their offices are the major problem. Our society as a whole is the problem. Drug addiction in Dominica is a glaring reflection of a society which to some extent has lost its bearings. This must be addressed or it will lead to increasing disaster.