Based on my personal and growing professional experience, the best approach to substance abuse is “harm reduction,” which means treating people who use drugs with compassion rather than punishing them. It’s not only humane, it works.
The exact opposite is happening in the Philippines, where president Rodrigo Duterte has waged a “war on drugs” that includes killing suspected drug users in the street. At least 2,000 people have been killed since June by police with no due process.
Earlier this week, Duterte and Trump spoke on the phone. Duterte reported that Trump endorsed his actions, and even floated the idea that Duterte come visit him in New York.
Click this link and scroll down if you want to see what Trump has endorsed (warning- graphic images):
You might say to yourself: that’s far away, nothing like that can happen here. You’re probably right, to an extent. Trump has appointed Jeff Sessions to Attorney General, a man eager to escalate the war on drugs and further criminalize drug use. “Law and order” doesn’t stop addiction. It breaks up communities and causes suffering, which is often why people abuse drugs in the first place.
Those of us who have watched someone struggle- or struggled ourselves- know that the best medicine for addiction is love and tolerance. Not brutality.President Duterte should not be condoned, let alone by the president-elect.
Where do we go from here? There’s no use in feelings like guilt or despair, unless they motivate action:
- Love people in your life who struggle with substances and support them in making changes they initiate
- Regardless of how you feel about Trump, talk to others about how he should not be endorsing the actions of Rodrigo Duterte (sharing this article is an easy way to do that)
- Contact your local legislator and let them know you believe in compassionate and pragmatic approaches to substance abuse
- Educate yourself
- Last but not least: take care of yourself, because you can’t give away what you don’t have