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Addictions from a Economic and Political Perspective
While we often think of addictive behaviors as being a problem that results from an individuals actions, there is a large economic and political component to it that is often understated. One thing that struck me while reading Global use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco (Anderson, 2006) was how low-income countries are made like scapegoats, shouldering the heavy consequences of drug addiction.
What made it more disturbing is how sometimes it is the greed of the developed nations that place these low-income countries into a deeper pit that they cannot climb out of. I think of how the Chinese had the terrible problem of opium, which was introduced to them by the Western more powerful countries in exchange for spices. It is so degrading, inhumane and exploitive that a wealthier nation could do this to a poorer country. There are sad stories of how many wealthy nations dispose tons of extra produce from their farms each year, while thousands of people are hungry and starving in another place. Don’t addictive substances make one of the most evil gifts? It only reinforces the power the wealthier nation has over the poor nation that is now dependent on it for drugs.
Ironically, even in the first world countries, addictive substances such as alcohol and cigarettes are so lucrative that governments hesitate to ban them. It seems that economic profit weighs higher on the agenda than public health and social welfare and security.
I remember while traveling overseas, I recall browsing through many advertisements for housemates who were “420 friendly”, which referred to the cannabis subculture, which smoking for pleasure is illegal in that city. I admire that some governments like the Singapore government put in efforts to try to curb drug advertisements, and smoking in public places, although I really wonder if we will pay a hefty social price for our economic gains from building out integrated resort. With the many rules and regulations we have controlling Singaporeans who enter the casinos, only time will tell how effective this strategy is to protect ourselves from the ills of gambling.
Who do we blame when society falls apart because of drugs? The recent case of Jared Loughner (the guy who fatally shot 6 people and wounded 14 others in Arizona on 8 January 2011) linked to a strong legalized hallucinogen reminds us of how easy it is for suffering to ripple through the local and international community. With the growing talk about ethicality, human rights protection, and our increasing knowledge and advocacy of medicine and drugs, I am curious to see the directions and strategies governments adopt to allow economic growth while protecting their people from addictive behaviors.
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