Feature Article of Wednesday, 28 March 2012
Columnist: Donkor, Alfred O.
I was pleased to read about NACOB’s no-nonsense approach to tackling drug trafficking (see NACOB readies for drug barons, Ghanaweb 7th March) but I was also alarmed at some of the online comments to the news item. The comments were typical of the laissez faire attitude that some people in this country have about drugs; the attitude that the drugs problem is a problem for Europeans and Americans.
In part, this is because we read often about Ghanaians arrested at various international airports and those languishing in prisons in UK, US and Thailand. We hardly hear of the druggie next door or the family member whose life is being destroyed by drugs. All of this creates the impression that that the problem is all about barons and their couriers trafficking drugs overseas. Some have even argued that if drug barons are smuggling cocaine overseas why it should bother us. This argument is factually wrong and morally weak. Drug trafficking is an international business that knows no boundaries. Yes, drug barons using Kotoka Airport are targeting the west for purely economic reasons- they get better value for their drugs. They may not sell the same volumes or the same grade of drugs nor get the same returns in Africa as in the west. But as drug enforcement in the west gets tighter and drug barons fight among themselves for territories, the search for new markets in Africa, and yes in Ghana becomes a priority for drug kings.
C-ZAR’s claim that most Ghanaian musicians use drugs (see Joy Online 5th March 2012) caused a lot of controversy, but is this surprising? Drug abuse is not something that others do, it is not something that foreigners do. Yes it may not be common to hear about the neighbour’s son who is so ‘stoned’ that they can hardly wake up let alone go to school. We prefer not to talk about family members who abuse drugs regularly while their innocent parents think that they are just alcoholics. But drug use is on the rise in our communities. You may even know someone like that.
The press gives coverage to cocaine, wee and heroin, so we don’t hear a lot about other commonly abused drugs such as Librium, acid and some types of amphetamines that our youth take for their unusual excitement and euphoria. As a teenager I had colleagues who used Librium as a recreational drug and other substances just to get high!
Most of us do not know the signs and symptoms of drug abuse. Drug abuse can lead to severe health consequences - slurred speech, slowed breathing, lowered blood pressure, irritability and death when combined with high levels of alcohol. This is why it is critical for drug enforcement to go hand in hand with drugs education.
NACOB should accelerate its drugs education programmes in our communities and schools in order to enhance people’s awareness of the dangers, signs and symptoms of drug abuse. Parents in particular need to be able to spot drug use so that they can seek help before it’s too late.
Health workers should be trained and equipped to help drug users. TV, radio and other media should be deployed to maximise impact. TV programmes on drugs screening at international airports for example UK Border Control and Australia Border Force will help people appreciate that it is no longer easy to traffic drugs. Drug barons are taking advantage of ignorance within our communities to recruit gullible people to do their dirty work for them.
Some of our youth are trying too many substances these days. Those who understand drugs will tell you one thing leads to another, so we need to get to our youth early, before the drug barons do, long before they board the next plane.
And this is why NACOB’s role is extremely important and must be supported. And this is why we must commend Akrasi Sarpong and the NACOB team for the great job they are doing; we urge them to take the message into our communities and homes so that we can get parents and members of the public involved in tackling this menace before it takes over our homes.
Alfred O Donkor