Every so often, Rappler publishes an article that demands a rebuttal. Nothing less than a trashing would do lest people start believing that what the writer is saying is true. We all know Rappler promotes a lot of “liberal” ideas, which they think are “hip” and “cool” and they also think that everyone else should “get with the times”. The latest one they are trying to endorse is accepting the notion that the use of recreational or illegal drugs is okay as long as you are not harming anyone. Well, that is a lot of bullshit.
The writer Cecilia Lero started off by proudly saying she is a “responsible person who makes positive contributions to my family, community, and country”. She followed up with “drug use in no way adversely affects my personal or professional lives.”
Unfortunately, Lero already contradicted herself in her introduction. If she was a responsible person, she would not have bragged about being an illegal drug user at all. I say irresponsible because a lot of impressionable young kids and likewise gullible adults could emulate her. They might see her and think, “oh she looks normal” and then assume that use of illegal drugs may not be as harmful as some people say it is. While she implied that she only uses marijuana and not synthetic drugs, she however, did not condemn harder illicit substances out there.
If her friends are not going to say it, I will. Lero’s use of recreational or illegal drugs says a lot about her character. One can be forgiven for saying it is weak. If she has a healthy outlook in life, why would she need to use drugs to feel good? She may look healthy and some would even say she’s kinda “cute”, but it seems her mind is struggling to cope with the realities of life. Otherwise, she wouldn’t feel the need to “space out” to forget her “problems”. Presumably that is why she uses marijuana. She did not specifically say she uses it for medicinal purposes anyway. She didn’t say she is using it because she is undergoing chemotherapy either. That would have been a different story. No, she uses it because it made her feel good, it seems.
In other words, Lero could be using drugs to address underlying mental health issues. She could be suffering from some form of depression and sees drugs as the answer to alleviate feelings of emptiness. If that is the case, she is not addressing the root causes of her problems. She’s actually adding more to it. Despite her degrees and accomplishments, which she also proudly displayed at the bottom of her article, it seems she still needs drugs to cope. Her training in prestigious institutions did not give her the right character to say no to drugs. Frankly, she’ll benefit more from psychiatric therapy than using drugs to chase her blues away. Or instead of using drugs, she could try taking up other hobbies like painting or learning to play a new instrument. After all, art is good for the soul.
Lero’s first claim to infamy was when she wore a sign on her chest that said “I am drug user. Papatayin mo ba ako? (Will you kill me?)” during a protest rally against President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war on the 21st of September 2017. Some people thought she was just being hypothetical. Apparently, her article confirmed she is indeed, a drug user. She wants to be the poster girl for drug users. By coming out, she hoped to break the stereotype and bust the popular thinking that drug addicts are all zombie-like creatures. She wants to include her own image – light skinned and with chubby cheeks – in people’s imagination when they think of drug addicts.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to judge Lero’s choice of poison. I’m actually here to remind her that marijuana and other recreational drugs are still illegal in the Philippines. Someone from law enforcement should pay her a visit and ask her to point to her drug dealer so they can arrest him or her. Until the lawmakers legalise the use of marijuana, Lero is still violating the law.
The problem with Lero’s justification in being a casual drug user is she assumes that everyone is constituted the same. She failed to realise that people’s physiological properties are not all the same. Different people react differently to the stuff we put in our system. Take coffee for instance. Some people can handle drinking coffee without suffering from insomnia, but some will have a hard time getting a wink after a cup in the afternoon. It’s the same with recreational drug use. There are people who start out as a casual drug user, but eventually become full blown addicts because their bodies are susceptible to addiction. Some start out with just marijuana and then when they get bored with the hit, they move up to harder drugs. I’ve always wondered why members of the Rolling Stones who are in their 70s are still alive despite their drug use while other rock stars overdose in their 20s. It’s the luck of the draw. DNA plays a role in it, which is why I think Lero was wrong in publishing a statement saying being a drug user is okay as long as you’re not harming anyone. Marijuana can actually affect the brain. Prolonged use can increase the risk of psychosis, which is harmful to the user and the people she comes in contact with.
Drug problems in many parts of the world have become an epidemic. Lero did not mention this because her agenda is different. She wanted to paint a very different picture of drug use. She wanted to remove the stigma. But what she did was very dangerous. A recent article from The Guardian described it as a devastating social problem:
Heroin and other opioid drug use is a devastating social problem, and in many places it’s getting worse. The number of heroin users in the US tripled to one million between 2003 and 2014, and heroin abuse is estimated to cost the US around $50bn a year. Deaths from overdose have tripled in the past 15 years, and injection of the drug has spread HIV and other diseases transmissible through blood. About eight in every 1,000 Britons are high-risk opioid users – the highest ratio in Europe.
Describing drug abuse as an epidemic is already to imply that it is a kind of disease. And indeed that is how it is regarded by medical organisations such as the American Medical Association; the US National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse in New York calls it “a complex disease of the brain and body”. After all, like many other diseases it can be inherited: genetic factors seem to account for as much as half of the risk that an individual will develop drug addiction.
Lero did not mention how devastating drug addiction has become even in the Philippines because she wants to paint Duterte’s war on drugs as worse. As far as I know, it is not a state policy to include killing innocent children in the war on drugs. Over one million drug users and dealers have surrendered to police without getting harmed as a result of the campaign. If Duterte really has a state policy of killing them, why are they still alive? Why is Lero still alive if casual users like her are also targeted by the government’s war on drugs? She’s just not making any sense.
Duterte’s drug war is not perfect. In fact, there is a lot of room for improvement. I get the impression the Philippine National Police has already started overhauling some precincts. The Department of Justice also announced that it will prosecute the policemen involved in the killing of 17-year-old Kian delos Reyes. Likewise, the entire Caloocan police force was already sacked and replaced following a string of crimes involving said cops. The image that people like Lero are trying to project – that the drug war is targeting the poor is false and misleading. Of course there are more poor people who are into drug dealing due to the allure of easy money for those who lack better opportunities. That is the simplest explanation why there are more people from the poor who are getting caught in the crossfire.
Lero herself admits that she is privileged, which is why she has other options in life unlike her poor counterparts. Which also begs the question, why does she even have to take drugs in the first place? The answer is all in her head.
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