Palma celebrated the International Day against drugs in 2005 where carps were installed they performed co-oximetry checks. | S. AMENGUAL

The 26th of June is a day set aside since 1987 for the celebration against drug abuse and illicit trafficking. This year’s celebration is centred on the theme: People first, stop stigma and discrimination, strengthen prevention. Drug abuse and illicit trafficking is one of the serious challenges facing many countries around the globe especially with rising unemployment and conflicts in many countries in the global south. Last year’s European Drug Report revealed an alarming situation about drug abuse and illicit trafficking in Europe. For example,

Approximately 83.4 million or 29 % of adults (aged 15–64) in the European Union are estimated to have ever used an illicit drug, with more males (50.5 million) than females (33.0 million) reporting use. Cannabis remains the most widely consumed substance, with over 22 million European adults reporting its use in the last year. Stimulants are the second most commonly reported category. It is estimated that in the last year 3.5 million adults consumed cocaine, 2.6 million MDMA and 2 million amphetamines. Around 1 million Europeans used heroin or another illicit opioid in the last year.

This is an unpleasant situation for the continent as leaders push for the achievement of Sustainable Development goals. South America remains the biggest threat to efforts in combating illicit trafficking of drugs with Colombia leading the pack in terms of the top ten biggest drug lords in the world. Fifty percent of those drug lords are from Colombia, followed by Mexico with twenty percent while India, Jamaica, and Burma share equally the remaining thirty percent. This year’s celebrations are focusing on the following seven objectives:

  • Raise awareness about the negative impact of stigma and discrimination on people who use drugs and their families.
  • Raise awareness about the AIDS and hepatitis epidemics among people who use drugs and expand and strengthen HIV and hepatitis prevention programmes.
  • Promote evidence-based, voluntary services for all people who use drugs.
  • Educate about drug use disorders, available treatments and the importance of early intervention and support.
  • Advocate for alternatives to imprisonment for drug-related crimes, such as community-based treatment and services.
  • Combat stigma and discrimination by promoting language and attitudes that are respectful and non-judgmental.
  • Empower young people and communities to prevent drug use and addiction.

The celebrations are taking place at a time when there is too much stigma and inhuman treatment of people involved in drug abuse and illicit trafficking. The law enforcement departments are there to prevent illicit trafficking of drugs by closing possible corridors used by these illicit traffickers but as the church we have a pastoral role to play in the rehabilitation of such people. We should not adopt a holier than thou attitude where we see these people as sinners not worthy of God’s love and forgiveness. How do we take part in the rehabilitation of such peoples? First, we should not be judgmental as Proverbs 18:2 says, “a fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” We should invest time in understanding the circumstance of these people and with the will to be part of their transformative journey.

Second, we should love them because they are human beings bearing God’s image. Stigma is prevented when we start to treat human beings with the love and respect they deserve and not as objects of drug abuse. Such love plays a significant role in further preventing drug abuse and illicit trafficking. This does not entail participating in the promotion of drug abuse and illicit trafficking but it means playing a positive and godly role in the prevention of further abuses. As we celebrate this important day, let us take time to pray for the victims of drug abuse and ponder on the practical ways of rehabilitating them.