Drug Abuse Is a Health Issue

"...Comic book drug narratives construct a dichotomy between drug users and drug dealers. Users are typically presented as victims of predatory drug dealers. They may be physically, sexually, and morally degraded, but they remain victims who should be saved by the hero... By contrast, dealers are predatory villains who are criminalized and punished through the justified violence of the hero", writes Mark Stoddart in the Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture. This is indeed the popular notion in society, a simplistic view that drug dealers are evil and that they are solely responsible for the drug problem a society faces. Unfortunately, such a narrative fails to help us see fully how a drug crisis actually evolves, as Stoddart notes in his paper.

How a drug trade sets foot in society is not as simple as how villains are depicted in comic books. In Saviano's "ZeroZeroZero", drug dealers are not simply criminals for they are often high in social stature - efficient business leaders and politically savvy. Drug abuse often exists simultaneously with corruption in government and police forces.

Recognizing that substance abuse is a health issue likewise should go much further than acknowledging what illicit drug use does to a person's health, behavior and functioning. There is no argument that drug abuse is a devastating public health problem. What is often missing is the fact that drug abuse often starts during adolescence and that there are individuals who are at a higher risk of becoming drug addicts. A recent study published in Substance Use & Misuse supports previous findings that difficulty in regulating emotions, impulsivity, and greater peer influence are all linked to a higher risk of substance abuse.

Drug dealers are businessmen and politicians while drug addicts are predestined because of their poor emotion control, impulsiveness and influential peers.  So perhaps, comic books are correct. The question is: Where is the hero?

Proclaiming that drug abuse is a health issue should be more than lip service. Something needs to get done. Unfortunately, the solutions are not easy. In the United States, there are now high schools that specifically target young drug addicts.

Above copied from PBS

In these schools, recovery is still very difficult since the initial factors of poor emotional control, impulsivity, peer influence remain. Perhaps, there is a better way. The Berkeley school district in California starts addressing this challenge early in the kindergarten and elementary years. They use a toolbox:

Above copied from
Berkeley Public Schools

A school with the right climate can help children develop emotion regulation and control impulsivity. Drug abuse is really a problem that starts in basic education.