Killarney, Co Kerry: Drug Culture Can Be Changed By Tackling Social Issues

8 Oct

THE prohibition system favoured in this country in the fight against drugs has failed miserably and should be abandoned to facilitate a more practical and workable policy, a leading criminologist has insisted.

Dr Paul O’Mahony, associate professor of psychology at Trinity College, Dublin, said the traditional “cops and docs” method, combining the criminal justice system with the health service, is totally inadequate and new legislation is urgently needed if matters are to improve.

He said medics and law enforcers obviously have significant roles to play but to totally rely on them is a farce that provides an excuse for the Government to do nothing.

“We need to tackle the whole issue of social justice, culture and our love of mood-altering substances through education and prevention.

“We have an almost universal and irresistible urge to indulge in mood-altering substances and problems have been created by doctor-caused epidemics through the supply of tranquillisers and drugs such as Prozac,” he remarked.

Speaking at the annual Getting A Grip conference in Killarney — organised by Kerry Life Education and the Southern Regional Drugs Task Force — he said the whole drug culture takes on a glamour that is appealing to rebellious young people.

“They resist attempts at control and need to establish independence and autonomy as they grow. It’s as if drug use proves maturity.

“Prohibition has created a criminal monopoly that enriches those willing to defy the law who are ruthless enough to use violence and intimidation to turn a profit.”

Dr O’Mahony said that while there was a flow of “showcase successes” highlighting major drugs seizures made by gardaí, prohibition has been a massive failure as situations where there is huge profit are being created and spread through the prison system.

“We are spending huge amounts of money on law enforcement that’s simply not working.”

The respected criminologist said triggers for drug abuse include the stresses of attempting to maintain materialistic lifestyles, more competition in education and in the workplace, and the increased pace and intensity of life.

“We had a mad situation where people were buying houses 50 or 60 miles away and commuting for two hours to work while their children were in care for 10 or 12 hours a day.”

He said that another major problem is what he termed “the X-Factor scenario” in which expectations of success are limitless but there was not much to go around.

“All of these interacting changes have impacted dramatically on our way of life and on the quality of life and people have become more susceptible to the allure of drugs,” he said.

He said the way to succeed was through legislation and not medicalisation and with ubiquitous and energetic educational programmes highlighting the destructive use of drugs.  &


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