The tragic figures for drug deaths in Scotland, issued this week, should shock us out of our complacency but I don’t think they will. Already politicians have sieved the opportunity to round on the government. But who seriously believes that a labour or labour/libdem coalition, or a conservative administration, for that matter, could have made any difference? Laying this at the feet of the SNP, who are probably doing their best is simply unfair. Blaming the government is the easiest game in the book. The truth is that facing up to this problem is way beyond the power of any political grouping. It is a much deeper disease at the core of society and not within the gift of any politician to resolve. All that can be done, I suspect, and all that will be done, will be a containment exercise. The issue will be moved further away from law and order and be embedded in health and safety. It will be a harm reduction measure and, while this may bring the figures to a more acceptable levels (If drug deaths are ever acceptable), it will not address the real problem. Instead it will give a renewed push towards decriminalisation and legalisation and the culture of death will be made “safe”.
Like all almost all the serious issue of the day, the responses will fall along predictable lines, attitudes will harden and views become increasingly polarised. That’s a tragedy. Because there is truth and real evidence in both sides.
I believe that addiction is a real phenomenon and people can be enslaved, trapped in a dependency that will drive them to the most selfish, self destructive and appalling behaviour often involving deceit, manipulation and sometimes real cruelty to those who love them most and who have done everything in their power to help. It is ugly and heart-breaking to watch. The terrible destruction of families and relationships by addictions is a great blight on society and the individual at the vortex seems locked in a vice unable to free themselves. I believe it, because it resonates with my understanding of the human condition. The spiritual analogy is sin, and what it does, which is why we need a Saviour.
But I also believe in free will and that at some point along the line the individual has made a deliberate choice to pursue their own pleasure and to hell with the rest. To deny the individual’s responsibility here is extremely patronising as it deprives them of their human dignity – the ability to choose. That is why I am uneasy about treating dependence and addiction as purely health issues as it parks the issue of responsibility. One of the best gifts you might be able to give a sufferer is the hope in the belief that they can break free, if they really want to. I remember the testimony of a doctor who had worked with addicts and alcoholics over many years. He had seen all the programmes and methods for rehabilitation and come to the stark conclusion that people only recovered if they really wanted to.
If we care at all we should do everything we can to help, no matter how costly that might be. But the person needs to really want it. They have to come to the place where they face the reality of who they are and seek the help that can only come from beyond themselves. That is the basis of the AA and DAA programmes and why they, more than other, have been successful.
I think that we have to do the same. We have to look beyond ourselves. We have to seek help from a higher authority. We need to put our trust in a Saviour.