The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has reported a startling rise in the number of cases related to drugs – abuse, peddling, and trafficking. In the last two years, close to 850 cases were referred to OAG for prosecution.

The report is a significant document in that it makes succinctly clear that the stringent laws are rendered toothless in the face of such a worrying phenomenon in the country that involves mostly young people.

The report states: “Stringent provisions of the law seem to have less or no deterrence effect on curtailing the abuse of drugs or the number of drug peddlers as cases are on the continuous rise.”

It is an important document that deserves some serious reading because it gives us not only statistics and case items of the last two years, but also offers some sensible and attainable recommendations to deal with the problem. In particular it highlights the need to adopt a reformative approach. Because the societies that have embraced reparative strategies have by and large met with remarkable success, it would be more than worth our while to give it a try.

Labouring under the delusion that tough laws and more tough laws will help us eliminate the drug problem root and branch haven’t got us anywhere. It will not. Never. Addressing the problem requires tools, strategies and resources that will lend to effective redressal of the problem both now and in the future.

OAG has said that the drastic increase in drug cases in the country in the last two years could have some bearing on the stringent provisions in the laws, mainly the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act. It could be true, but we cannot take comfort in the fact that tougher laws and better surveillance system have led to increased detection. The fact remains that abuse and trafficking of drugs is fast becoming a serious and deadly scourge in the country.

A sad reality is that even as we are unable to address the problem of drugs in the country we have inadequate number of rehabilitation and corrective centres that could give new lease of life to those young individuals whose predicament we all are somehow guilty of having created.

At a time when youth unemployment is soaring over the roof, there is a real danger of losing more young lives to the dark powers of drugs and unproductivity. That happening, will cost the nation dearly.