Drug addicts have always been marginalized by society and the entire community. Always on the bottom rung and perceived mostly as dangerous criminals and filth rather than as people in need of assistance and reassurance. Instead of punishment they require support and help in recovering from the harmful effects of drug use.
Drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors have always posed a danger and threat for young people and society in general. A reality no one ever manages to escape, death one prescribes to oneself. The problem still lacks a permanent solution, and it seems rather impossible one will ever be found. Trapped in a ruthless world, a world dictating a brisk tempo without a pause in which we have no idea how to reach the goals set for ourselves… Or rather the goals society envisions us to achieve. This can sometimes make us to lose ourselves in this vicious vortex, where the last resort we believe to be is reaching out for substances that could make us forget.
Incriminations in the Criminal Code of the Republic North Macedonia
People who use drugs and other psychotropic substances are known as drug users, while inducing and forcing other people to use drugs is a criminal offence to the health of people, prescribed with Article 216 of the Criminal Code of RNM and punishable with one to five years of imprisonment. In addition, the list of prohibited activities also includes the unauthorized production and release for trade of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors, whether it is for oneself or for another person, prescribed with Article215 of the CC of RNM and punishable with three to ten years of imprisonment.
National Drug Strategy of the Republic North Macedonia
The question is how we can help people who use drugs. One way of achieving this was the adoption of the 2014 to 2020 National Drug Strategy of RM aiming to protect the public health and safety, the main subject of protection also of the criminal legislation regulating this filed, as we have already mentioned previously. Namely, one of the Strategic goals prescribed is reducing the drug supply, which in itself would undoubtedly later imply a drop in the drug demand. However, we are aware that reality is quite different than what is put on paper, hence it is often difficult to determine where the substance in question was supplied from, meaning state control in this field is lacking. In addition, the National Drug Strategy also offers crucial information on infectious diseases related to drug use. The data is definitively startling and terrifying since it provides insight into the possible consequences related to uncontrolled drug use in the worst possible way. Furthermore, infections transmitted by intravenous drug use, for instances by using unsterile syringes or used syringes etc., can also be dangerous for addicts and a threat to their life and health.
Have we ever asked what kind of treatment drug users receive? The answer is simple – none whatsoever. The activities of rehabilitation centres is not sufficient in order to deal with this battle. The issue requires a broader spectre of experts, namely a psychologist, psychiatrist, pedagogue, in other words a certain type of an observational centre, a team of people working with the drug addict before the individual is placed in an institution. Their goal would be to profile the individuals, study their character, actions, and find out the most important information – why this specific individual has developed a problematic substance use and how it affects their life quality. Timely assessment is always important because prevention is always better than repression. The approach is crucial, since good approach, combined with good treatment always bears fruit. In reality, unfortunately, treatment is depleted after medication/substitute is administered without any psycho-social support, which is considered essential to the treatment, in addition to the re-socialization process of the patients.
The eternal theory of labelling
Individuals addicted to drugs and other psychotropic substances have always been marginalized and rejected by society and the entire community. Always on the bottom rung and perceived mostly as dangerous criminals and filth, rather than people in need of assistance and reassurance. Instead of punishment they require a measure that would help and bring them back to society. However, sadly, our outdated, traditional and conservative society seems to be still in the past century, applying the theory of labelling to these individuals. Although the theory primarily refers to perpetrators of criminal offences, followed by the motto “Once a criminal, always a criminal,” the same theory and motto, only in a slightly altered form, is applied by our society to these individuals. But we are talking about an ADDICT, in other words, a person addicted to another substance, and this addiction cannot be controlled, that is to say, this individual is ill and requires help.
“Contemporary” trends on a global level
Educational campaigns and programs, as part of informal education, could be helpful to timely inform young people on the drug-related effects, as well as the possible consequences, in order to discourage them from the intention of using drugs and psychotropic substances. A true effect would be reached only with a strong propaganda, as opposed to the occasional campaign videos presented on certain TV channels without big viewership. If admitting to having tried marihuana used to be “embarrassing”, today it is “embarrassing” to admit to never have tried it at all! People’s attitudes towards these substances has radically changed, globally, throughout the world, and the number of countries legalizing marihuana as a “light drug” is increasing, a trend which we might be welcoming soon ourselves.
Let us react before it is too late to save many lives and people.
Author: Ivana Baltovska
Ivana Baltovska has a Master’s degree in Criminal Law from the Faculty of Law Iustinianus Primus in Skopje. She is a member of ELSA – European Law Students Association, the Association of Young Criminologists, as well as the Association on Criminal Law and Criminology. She has participated in the legal clinic for vulnerable groups, working on criminal law (prisoners and exercising their rights), as well as in the legal clinic for refugees and migrants. She is also an author and has published three books: “Неискажаните зборови” (Words unuttered), “Пајажина од тајни” (A Web of secrets), awarded with a recognition for affirming the Macedonian language, “Чекор пред нив” (One step before them), in print at the moment, financed by the Ministry of Culture, and is currently writing her fourth book.
Арнаудовски, Љ, (2007) „Криминологија”,Правен факултет „Јустинијан Први“ во Скопје, 2-Август С Штип, Скопје. (Arnaudovski, Lj. (2007) Criminology).
Criminal Code, Third addition, consolidated text, Skopje, 2017
2014-2020 National Drugs Strategy