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Our View: Anti-drug resources should go more to prevention

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EVERY once in a while, the media picks up a drug-related story and makes a big issue out of it, prompting organised groups and politicians to express concerns about our youth and demand action from the authorities. The latest bout of public fear was sparked by the arrest of three youths – one underaged – in a car in the parking area of a Paphos school. In total 30 grammes of cannabis were found on the suspects, three grammes of which were reportedly in the school bag of the 16-year-old student. The three were taken to court some 11 days ago and were remanded for three days.

This case shocked society, reported one paper, while the Paphos school authorities demanded that security guards be used at schools – if possible round the clock – to guard against the grounds being used for drug dealing. Parents’ associations back the idea, nobody realising that having security guards would not make the slightest difference, unless they had the power to body-search schoolkids, that nobody would countenance. Kids would always find a corner of the school premises to carry out their drug transactions.

As society was shocked, the House education committee felt obliged to call a meeting last Wednesday to discuss the drug use at schools, inviting a range of people to speak about the problem. It was here that one do-gooder, representing the so-called Drug-Free World foundation made the unsubstantiated claim that a Limassol school canteen manager was selling drugs, but parents were afraid to report him. Subsequent police investigations found no evidence to support the claim but this was indicative of the drug alarmism that appears from time to time.

According to the drug squad chief, 70 school students, between 15 and 18, were arrested last year for drug possession and were referred to treatment programmes. In 2017 the number was 66, but these figures mean nothing. Police said on Thursday that while they were combating drug trafficking by criminal groups, society was not investing enough in prevention. Of the total amount spent on fighting drugs, 76.3 per cent went on law enforcement and only 1.7 per cent on prevention programmes. It was a fair point, the police taking a sensible position, but it has to be said that prevention has not worked in any country.

Smoking marijuana is something that teenagers do all over the Western world and no amount of campaigning will put them off indulging in recreational drug use. All we can do as a society is advise them not to overdo it, explain the negative effects of excessive use such as psychosis and inform them about harm caused by use of heavy drugs such as cocaine and heroin. It is on the heavy drugs that prevention campaigns should be focused, because the battle against cannabis cannot be won, regardless of the scare-mongering by our society’s do-gooders.

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