Don’t criminalise meth users

Saturday May 25, 2019 Written by Published in Opinion

Methamphetamine is a dangerous drug. As is Coca-Cola, coffee, and alcohol. You know this. I know this. a good percentage of the world’s population probably knows this. But most people lack an appreciation for just how dangerous it is.


The people who consume it should not be criminalised. They should be treated as someone with a health problem. A person who, like many others, has become addicted to a drug and now requires support and rehabilitation.

I grew up with a father who was addicted to methamphetamine. I have met people, been places, seen, and experienced the full effects of meth.

Let me make two things clear. First, I love my father unconditionally. If it were not for him, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I am eternally grateful for all that he did for me. Second, I have no issues with drug users. I believe that they are people in need of educating, help, love, and support. The purpose of this article is to draw your attention to the real effects of the drug we like to call ‘P’.

Yes, every user is different. Yes, you may be showing up to work and functioning as a normal human being, for now. Let me tell you, it won’t last. I believe that my father’s addiction to meth prevented him from being the man he could have been. The father he could have been. The friend he could have been to his mates. A role model for our family. A community leader.

I was 12 years old when I was first told about my father’s addiction. One evening a friend of mine came bursting into his living room, exclaiming that he had just seen his parents and my dad ‘smoking from a glass pipe’. I responded by telling him that he must be mistaken, that my dad only smoked cannabis and that he would never do meth.

It was not long after that I began noticing a change in my father’s behaviour. He became forgetful. He blabbered on about nothing. His mood would become so volatile, that to say he had a short fuse would be a gross understatement. He became violent. I would be smacked so hard that my ears would ring, eyes would water, and nose would bleed.

Eventually I built up the courage to confront my father about his behaviour. I told him that I was sick of not having a house to invite my friends to. That I no longer wanted to surf from one of his friend’s couches to another. That he was forgetting things we had spoken about not five minutes earlier. Ignorantly I believed he was smoking too much cannabis, and told him so. If only that were the truth.

When I think of that moment now, I know he was lying through his teeth. He knew he had a problem but couldn’t bear to admit it. Instead he suffered in silence, festering in his problems rather than reaching out to somebody and fixing them.

It was six years later that I finally realised my father was sick. He was addicted to a substance that affected the way he perceived the world. It toyed with his brain and sent him in to a pit, where he felt as if the only solution was to have some more. It stole his money, purpose, and eventually his life.

I’m sure the story of my father is not unlike that of numerous other meth users, because this is what it does. Once it has a grasp on you, it never lets you go. Meth makes you feel invincible, apparently like superman. You spend your life chasing that feeling, not realising that there are a million other ways to achieve it.

We need to face the reality that meth is here in the Cook Islands, and here to stay. This drug will keep on finding its way into the country, regardless of how well you beef up security at the borders. As much as we would like to believe in a fair and just world, it unfortunately doesn’t work that way. There will always be corrupt individuals. Almost everyone has a price.

The only way to minimise the impact of meth in this country is to decrease the market demand for it. That is why prevention through education should be the focus. Teach people about the realities of meth addiction. Don’t tell them that they can’t do something, because that just makes them want to do it even more. Instead, educate them on why they shouldn’t do it.

We also need to stop discriminating against meth users. Recognise in law that these people are sick and suffering from a health condition. Instead of sending them to prison just to be released and reoffend, government needs to establish outreach, intervention, and rehabilitation services. These organisations need to be well trained and equipped in order to be truly effective. They must provide wraparound services that are non-discriminatory and offer around-the-clock support and assistance.

If my dad could have had access to such services, if he knew someone could have helped him to face his demons, I think that he would have turned his life around. His illness could have been cured. But instead, he died. He died an addict that left his son an inheritance of debt and ‘what ifs’.

                - Son of an addict

What if Jesus had Instagram?

I DO wonder sometimes if Jesus had an Instagram account what he would post on that account. As he made his way through the heights and depths of humanity, his fight with religiosity, his speaking with the woman at the well and his trials with the twelve men he called to be his disciples ultimately knowing one would betray him, and that in fact they all would as he made his way to the cross – what would he have posted?

I wonder if Jesus had a Facebook page what would he post, what pictures would he share, and what would he like, what would he say “wow” to and what would he shed a tear for? Seeing a picture of Jerusalem, and all the humanity inside it, would he hit the “sad” emoticon as he considered how he wanted to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks to herself and hold them close, keeping them safe from the potential harm of the world around them?

So much has been said with regard to social media use freedom of expression, hate speech and Christianity, as well Israel Folau’s post on behalf of Jesus on Instagram.

And now Brian Tamaki and his wife Hannah have decided to start a political party to combat what his wife called the escalating tide of poor decision making and to stand up for the silent majority.

I had to wonder who this silent majority were as interestingly 79.8 percent of New Zealand’s population actually expressed their voice and voted in the last election in New Zealand and this was up by 6.5 per cent from the 2014 election. It looks like the majority of New Zealand were not silent, although if she is talking about those that didn’t vote then about 21 per cent of the total population that all parties will be fighting for?

Folau’s 16 words posted on Instagram have caused a firestorm of offence, and of support from many corners, both religious, secular and on the sporting field. The debate has raged between what hate speech is and what it isn’t, and what is free speech and what it is not.

Although looking at the 16 words that Folau used, and if this is in fact hate speech then Billy Graham, the great 20th Century evangelist committed hate speech as did Spurgeon, William Bell Booth who started the Salvation army and Paul the Apostle are all guilty.

Acclaimed author Nadine Rossen, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, in her book “Hate, why we should resist it with free speech and not censorship”, said “hate speech” laws are at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive.  She discusses the idea that the only way to combat hate speech is to form a counter narrative to that speech and raise that to the same level. We never should prevent the freedom of speech to ever be illegal, for this is what the Nazis did, as they burned books and forbade thought or writing outside of their nationalist socialist ideologies.

As much as we would enjoy not hearing those that we greatly disagree with and yes freedom comes with a measure of responsibility as Folau has come to realise yet again, what then do we do about the freedom to express our views? Personally, I enjoy it when people disagree with me and when they take a position different to my own because I can’t know all things and can’t see all perspectives.

Maybe it’s not so much the message but the way it was delivered, and maybe Instagram is not the best place to deliver a message on eternity at all.

And for those reasons if Jesus had an Instagram account, I’m guessing it wouldn’t have any posts on it, and his Facebook posts would be nothing at all. Because he understood the value of meeting people face to face, to meet them where they were, at their level, and spoke to them in a way that opened doors and did not close them.

He was the master at reading the intentions of people’s hearts and to know words that opened up the heart to truth and to freedom. I doubt that Instagram or Facebook could ever deliver the divine in a way that was meaningful and that could bring the change and new life that he offered.

So whether you agree or disagree with Folau’s comments is almost secondary to the greater threat to free speech and our definition of what free speech is, what hate speech is and how we deal with the freedom to express our ideas, our thoughts and our faith.

What should be crystal clear is that we must show a real degree of responsibility with what we post on social media or to a public platform because the public, whether they agree with what we post or not, will have their say. That public includes those that agree with us and disagree with us and we need to be mindful of the response from either on a public platform. 

Nonetheless our freedom to express our opinions, our thoughts and faith in my view should never ever be hindered by legislation or public opinion and should instead by met with the counter argument, and to allow people to come to make their own decisions based on the examination and study of both.

That is our solemn responsibility and that will always make way for dialogue and understanding, something we all could do a little more with.

-Son of an addict

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