Time for New Approach to Social Challenges

Experts believe that 60% of the country’s criminal cases are directly or indirectly related to drug abuse.Experts believe that 60% of the country’s criminal cases are directly or indirectly related to drug abuse.

The factors contributing to social harm have changed over the past years and the authorities need to shift focus and adopt new approaches to deal with the present-day challenges, said Minister of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare Ali Rabi’ei.

Speaking at a conference on mental-social harm and drug abuse, Rabi’ei said that problems like addiction have become worse despite the fact that social scientists, relevant experts and the authorities have been apparently addressing the ills for years.

“Today, we must look more closely at the new causes for the social maladies.”

Poverty and unemployment are no longer the basic cause of drug abuse, he said.  “Today a large number of substance abusers are found among the wealthy strata.”

In the modern age, narcotics smuggling and drug addiction is proving to be one of the most challenging social issues across frontiers.

“As long as there is trafficking and trade in drugs, the problems will remain. To make matters worse, the street price of substances has also been decreasing over the years making drugs affordable and its abuse more widespread.”

As the origins of social challenges keep changing, all problems must be viewed in their individual as well as in the larger context, he said.

“For instance, the main reason for divorce today is no longer addiction and joblessness. Other issues such as unrealistic expectations, lack of preparation for marriage, lack of education on marital relations, and infidelity are largely responsible for the problem today.”

The minister said on average, 750 people are sent to rehabilitation centers every month, but the actual number of addicts is far bigger as the figure does not include those treated in private centers.

Experts believe that 60% of the country’s criminal cases are directly or indirectly related to drug abuse. In 2013, about 250,000 people were arrested on charges related to illicit substances.  

Rabi’ei also pointed to the decrease in the age of addiction and said he had talked to a drug user who was only 11 years old. This indicates that narcotics abuse is starting early.

Society too has become apathetic to social harm. “This widespread apathy further reduces our chances of using public potentials to combat the issue.”

Criticizing the tried and tested methods (almost all of which have failed) for dealing with drug trade and trafficking through use of force, he said alternative and workable strategies must be developed.

Social challenges stem from various sources that are constantly changing.  “Unfortunately, our management policies are such that problem-solving is isolated from other social issues while many of them are closely interlinked.”

Rabi’ei who was born, raised and educated in informal settlements, also voiced disapproval about the traditional notion that sees such settlements as the origin of social ills. “We need to shun such humiliating concepts and better start looking for the multiple reasons for social problems. Focusing on a single cause cannot and will not help in finding effective solutions.”  Economic improvement and a rise in income are not the only ways that ensure a happy life, “it is through hope that we can raise the indices and quality of life.”

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