Work related drug arrests reflect serious drug problem

The drugs arrest case is a serious case of drug use/abuse in a work place and clearly reflects the seriousness of the local drug problem.

Already one of the defendants in the case has appeared in court and has volunteered to start a drug rehabilitation programme. This is another indication of the many people of all ages, all walks of life and employment in Gibraltar with drug issues who need help, where it has taken an arrest of this kind for that person to seek help.

The arrest of people at work, taking or abusing drugs should not shock those who know something about the local drug problem, because it has been a related drug issue that has grown on par with the general substance abuse problem. The fact that many people in Gibraltar prefer to bury their head in the sand and hope this serious social problem will go away has compounded many aspects of drug control locally.

Gibraltar’s Growing Drug Problem

The fact remains, the Rock has serious substance abuse problem that will continue to grow and blossom like a poisonous mushroom unless the Government takes immediate action in putting together a national plan to combat drug abuse in Gibraltar. People affected, individuals and whole families who are caught up in the lethal local drug syndrome as a whole, have not been effectively protected!

In fact Gibraltar cannot wait another year or when the government thinks it’s fit to unfold a substance abuse programme based on data taken from up to date research. This serious problem had been steadily creeping into local society, specifically attacking young people and the not so young. In fact, I go further, unless a determined and drastic action is taken, the Rock could lose the potential and the contribution of hundreds of young people and the fibre of the Gibraltarian family will be seriously impaired.

Nearly two decades have passed since the local drug problem really came into its own, what has wavered, and has been just as damaging as consuming drugs itself, is the manner Gibraltar has reacted to the problem. Over the years hundreds of young people have been asking and required help that never came. Many young people now adults were on their own or with their families struggling against the terrible habit, many are now paying dearly for the consequences. Too many young people are now going through the same cycle and like others in the same predicament, are going to waste.

What is Society Going to do About It!

What are we going to do about it? That “we” embraces the whole of society, from the law enforcers to the drug pushers and the drug abusers, to parents and their friends, their teachers, their employers, the owners of bars, nightclubs and squeaky-clean establishments or hotels where transactions are possible made, and where at some momentous times in their lives, youngsters or their elders take the horrendous decision to “try one, to see how it feels”.

It remains strange that a nation of the size of ours, the pushers and the traffickers and the big ones remain difficult to track down, although much has been done and is being done by the police. One big step remains to be taken: nailing down the Big Fish himself/herself to break the back of the drug problem in Gibraltar. Easier said than done; that much is obvious!

Its incredible, that the Government has not thought it important in nearly 3 years in office to compile Statistics to show the estimated number of problematic drug users, much of what we know in this sense is guesswork, empirically based or taken from police arrest and court attendance figures which has never been or will ever be an accurate picture of the real problem with drugs out there.

At the social level, the level of family, friendship and employment, that is, the habits of a “daily drug user” ought to be identifiable, his or her performance or behaviour at school or in the workplace ought to be detectable in one way or another: Lack of productivity, absence of concentration, inability to function normally to take but three characteristics that should show up. If I am correct, the implications are that there may be friends, teachers, parents and employers walking on the other side of the road, a morally and ethically alarming thought.

Everyone Should be Pulling at the Same Rope!

All Government agencies, organisations, NGOs, the Church, and schools should all be pulling the same rope and working closely together in a coordinated manner. Of course people who have overcome an addiction and are now rehabilitated would have an important story to tell.

For the above reason, I would also like to see more holistic and perceptive treatment of social welfare cases. “For instance, if a person applies for the social housing scheme, s/he should not simply be provided with a house. Further investigations should take place to determine whether the person in question has succumbed to additional problems, such as drug abuse etc. Because already in this sense, there have many problems regarding one relatively new estate where many social cases were transferred without properly looking into these social issues effecting them.

In my book, National Drug Policies should no longer be drafted solely by academics. Even after drafting and implementation, a national policy remains an on-going process, in need of constant evaluation. Aspects which are not working or having the desired effects should be identified and the authorities should have the courage to acknowledge the flaws and strive to find alternative strategies, this was never the case with the previous drug strategy that went flat before it even started.

Gibraltar Continues to Fail on this Important Social Problem

There are clear indicators that we’re failing somewhere. We therefore need more research to find out what’s really happening. It could be that 16-year-olds are emulating their peers and drinking alcohol because it’s the hip thing to do. But there could also be instances where this tendency has deeper roots…A properly coordinated outreach programme should get off the ground, with agencies actively seeking out those in need and not merely awaiting to be approached!

Employers should also be enticed to shoulder their responsibility by closely following their employees and identifying and referring cases such as drug abuse. They would be helping society as well as the workplace.

The Government recently informed Panorama “the strategic drug-working group focuses on substance misuse i.e. drug and alcohol not just drugs. We are committed to conducting a Drug Prevalence survey within the current term of office. Priority issues include reduction in drug consumption, emphasis on enforcement, increased awareness and comprehensive review of rehabilitation services. The strategic response (national drug strategy) is currently being developed to include all these issues many of which are interrelated and require clear coordination between different governmental bodies and statutory bodies”.

The Government further adding, “this is an important document, which needs to be done thoroughly but it will certainly be completed before the end of this term of office. The Government also confirmed that the public will be invited to contribute given this is an issue of general public concern as highlighted by successive Police Authority surveys”.

Frankly I do not agree that this serious social issue should have to wait until the end of the term of office of the present administration before a national drug strategy is in place, if that actually happens?

Because even today no one knows the real extent of the substance abuse problem in Gibraltar! Similarly, no one even now, appears to be in any great hurry to find out the extent of the problem either. A situation that is an incomprehensible because you would think that after nearly three years in office the Government would want to know what they are facing when it comes to drug abuse in Gibraltar.

Panorama has been asking for years for these important drugs findings to be carried out. Why should we have to wait a few months or weeks before an election to get this vitally important information? Data or research that may reveal that someone or vulnerable group in society requires immediate attention and not wait before the next election, which may be over a year away and come to late for the desperate person concerned!

Source:  05-09-14

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