Dealing with drugs
Mice in a laboratory are given drugs. The mice soon become so addicted to the drugs that they risk getting electric shocks and don’t want to eat food anymore. The conclusion of the experiment: Drugs are addictive and dangerous. But one could pose the question: “Think about it from the mice’s perspective. They are imprisoned in a small cage. Life is not pleasant. If the mice were happy, would they still take drugs?”
In 1981, Simon Fraser University in Canada conducted a test. A spacious utopian park for 16 male and female mice was made, equipped with delicious cheese and numerous things to play with. Sugar water blended with morphine was on offer, as well as regular water. Meanwhile 16 other mice were imprisoned in a cage.
The results: The pampered, happy mice drank mostly the plain water, while the caged mice drank the morphine-spiked water 16 times more than the mice in the park. The test was considered controversial for underrating the dangers of drugs and laying the blame for addiction on the environment.
Richard Brunstrom, the chief constable of North Wales Police, takes an extreme stance. He says that the state has lost the war against drugs. With the number of drug addicts soaring while criminal gangs rake in huge profits, now is the time to abandon moral sensibilities and take the pragmatic approach of legalizing drugs. If the state sells drugs directly, Brunstrom maintains, then income sources for criminal gangs will dry out and related crimes will be reduced. It is ironic that a realistic viewpoint - or defeatism - is now considered radicalism.
Switzerland has taken such a measure. It adopted a policy to prescribe heroin to drug addicts, the first case in the world. The bill was approved in a national referendum last month. Under the policy, drug addicts receive heroin injections at hospitals. It is aimed at helping addicts lead a normal social life and reducing related crimes.
Among Korean adults, between 190,000 and 390,000 are estimated to have taken drugs more than once in their lifetime. Between 260,000 and 900,000 are estimated to have smoked marijuana. The figures are based on surveys from the Korean Association Against Drug Abuse, the Korean Institute of Criminology and the College of Pharmacy at Seoul National University, between 2004 and 2007.
If the numbers of drug users continue to rise, Korea may end up like Switzerland. We must control drug abuse more strictly. But a desirable long-term measure should be building a park inside people’s hearts so that they don’t need to take drugs.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Cho Hyun-wook [email@example.com]