We have run a number of articles on arrests and convictions of drug dealers and abusers.
The articles are straightforward. A man or woman was arrested for illegally possessing so and so drug and is likely to face so many years of imprisonment. Sometimes we provide a detail or two on how they may have been attempting to smuggle the drugs, and comment or two from a police official. Occasionally, we run a photograph of the seized drugs. That’s about it.
The content of such articles are sanitised and given the repetitiveness with which we publish such articles every month, we may have desensitised our readers. Those arrested become faceless statistics and we may be dehumanising the issue.
The challenge is how do we change the way we cover the drug and alcohol problem.
The solution is has to be a multi-pronged approach.
Besides covering arrests and convictions, there is a need to aid the law enforcement agencies in disrupting the supply chain. This would require sustained investigative reporting and the cultivation of solid sources of information.
However, disrupting supply would be futile if we do not address the factors that lead to dependence on drugs, and therefore demand. There is a need for us journalists to identify these causes and publish stories that would help all of us, especially those agencies that are either directly or indirectly connected, understand what causes people, especially the youth to turn to drugs.
It’s easy to recite the factors: unemployment, broken families, isolation, and a sense of hopelessness, among others. But we need to how this leads to the dependence. We need to read stories so that agencies can identify and intervene before the drugs do. There has to be a closer connection to our stories.
There is also a need to show that we can beat not only dependency but also find help in identifying and addressing the problems that caused the dependency in the first place.
Sharing the stories of people who’ve beaten dependency can be a start. Showing how they thrive once they receive opportunities would be another strategy. There is a clearly a need to change mindsets that those who struggle with drug addiction never change. Evidence shows that they do, if provided with opportunities.
There is a need for a better strategy.