Recovery High Schools and the Drug War

The Philippines is currently waging a war against illegal drugs. Both international and local media have been quick to underscore the number of lives that have been lost so far, nearly two thousand over the past two months. The drug epidemic is real. The Philippines ranks top among Southeast Asian countries in terms of methamphetamine (or shabu) abuse. While the current focus of Philippine authorities is curbing the supply side of the problem, the demand side is unfortunately rarely discussed even by those who criticize the hardline approach taken by the government. The reason perhaps lies in the fact that rehabilitation is both difficult and expensive.

In the United States, "recovery high schools" are beginning to emerge. Treatment clinics as these are mostly short term are thought to be inadequate for drug abuse rehabilitation. Thus, high schools can provide a longer period and a much more personal environment to address drug abuse among adolescents. These schools of course help not only in avoiding relapse but also in providing basic education.

Above copied from Pew Charitable Trusts
Indeed, results from these schools are very promising. There is just one big problem: The price tag. These schools spend about $16000 to $18000 per student per year. This is about 60 to 80 percent higher than the amount spent in an ordinary public high school in the United States. One reason for the high cost is that classes in these schools are of much smaller size: fewer than 15 per classroom. The small class size is needed for the obvious reason that students with a drug problem require greater attention.

There is no escape that rehabilitation requires resources. Recognizing that drug use and abuse is not just a criminal problem but also a health issue requires us to take rehabilitation seriously. The Philippines needs resources to address its drug problem in a much more humane fashion. Helping the Philippines should not stop at merely criticizing the Duterte administration in its current actions against the drug problem of the nation.



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