Friday, May 31, 2013

The Weekly Sneak: The Drug Problem We Don't Have

Earlier this week Tanzanian hip-hop artist Albert Mangwair died, reportedly from a drug overdose. He was 28 years old. Because of the long relationship between the creative and performing arts and substance use, it tends to be celebrity deaths that provide an unfortunate reminder of the use and misuse of psychoactives in our societies. I have been meaning to write about drugs because it is one of the Big Silences that we generally maintain and while it is opportunistic of me to write about it this week, what happened to Mangwair pushed me out of my complacency. 

After drafting the article, I called up a couple of friends for moral support and ended up getting a lot of information about the devastations that alcohol abuse and other drugs have caused in our community, and on the positive end some of the efforts that a few individuals are making to address the issue. We are mishandling our situation, particularly with regards to exposing children and adolescents to alcohol. While we can blame it on the glorification of drugs in popular culture, I think the real failure is one of regulation, widely available  information, and treatment. It is a complex issue that is becoming socially critical, and my only way of contributing is to try and get that topic out there:

"Our silence on the issue of drugs contributes in the way that all ignorance creates opportunities for exploitation and perversion. Not all intoxicating substances are created equal, some of the legal ones are in fact more of a social threat than some of the illegal ones. Alcohol- the most widely consumed psychoactive in the world if we ignore caffeine and tobacco- is a pretty nasty customer. The stuff is highly addictive and I have to confess to being amused by the health advisory statements that get plastered on bottles. ‘Enjoy responsibly’ has got to be the most cynical, watered down warning message ever to accompany what is essentially a poison that only has dubious medical endorsement in small doses."

I picked on alcohol because of its prevalence as the world's favorite drug, and its social acceptability in our communities. If I made the article about heroin or cocaine it would be too easy to devolve into a discussion of crime and police ineffectiveness (not to mention corruption) while ignoring the elephant in the room. You'll never hear prohibitionist language from me since I believe that the point is to address issues of demand rather than supply, but that said, if there's any chance of us actually enjoying responsibly, we're going to have to change our approach. 


  1. Yup, yup, there is a culture where mild alcoholism is effectively condoned if not promoted.

    Of course this is easy for me to say as a teetotaler :-)

  2. @Dr. Bob: ... in fact i don't know anymore how mild we're talking about. fine line to walk here since i don't believe in the effectiveness of prohibition but even thinking of making the argument for a progressive substance management policy in this environment is enough to kill the entire discussion. thing is, if we could enforce just a few of the existing laws it would begin to make a difference. ah well. *shrug*

  3. Ha ha, funnily enough after I wrote that comment I decided to join the drinking club!

    But I definitely don't think I'll be one of those who has to down 5 Safaris every evening after work, more like a glass of red wine at social events kind of thing.

    But you're right, is there even an awareness of the dangers of drunk driving? I have never heard heard anyone in Dar interrupt their drinking because they have to drive and everyone I know drinks and they don't sound like they have a designated driver.

    Obviously contributes to all those horrific up country bus and lorry accidents we always read about.

    That would probably be a good place to start.


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