Friday, October 26, 2012

Illegal Drugs Cause Violence

For most Americans, illegal drug use is a victimless crime.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Illegal drugs fund drug gangs both in the United States and internationally. Mexican drug cartels make $30 billion a year from U.S. illegal drug sales. And this money brings death and mayhem: More than 55,000 Mexicans have been killed in the Mexican cartel drug war. Murder is a tool for intimidation.

Similarly, U.S. drug gangs, often with connections to the Mexican drug cartels, terrorize and kill honest, innocent U.S. citizens. Like a cancer, the drug gangs’ criminality has metastasized into new criminal endeavors, e.g., human trafficking, extortion, and kidnapping.

Honest, mostly poor people, who have little option to move must live amongst these violent criminals. Besides risking death and disability, living in a violent environment causes such problems as depression, hypertension, and eating and sleeping disorders. Children also develop bedwetting, decreased socialization, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and aggressive behavior. Not surprisingly, these children have more health issues as adults.

Until now, these innocent victims of drug violence have not had a voice. … Hopefully over the next weeks and months, victims and their families will courageously come forward and tell their stories. We think their stories will create a very powerful message: Illegal drugs cause violence.

This message is indisputable. It challenges the erroneous concept that illegal drug use is simply a victimless crime. It appeals to people’s (yours?) social consciousness. Most illegal drug use is recreational. How important is recreational illegal drug use when such use abets widespread violence?

For these reasons, we believe “Illegal Drugs Cause Violence” would be an effective, additional message to anti-drug public awareness campaigns. The current anti-drug message, “drugs harm you,” challenges many individuals’ intrinsic sense of their invincibility and thus is ignored. This is particularly true for young people. In fact, in our experience, some people perversely interpret the “drugs harm you” message as a dare.

What can you do?

  • Victims: Are you living in one of these violent environments? Have you personally experienced illegal drug violence or had a family member or friend experience the violence? Are you a public official fighting this problem? Tell your story, either by text, photos, or video. We will respect your anonymity.
    If you wish to contribute on the Me and My Doctor blog, then let your voice be heard.
    We understand that for safety reasons many contributors would wish to remain anonymous. We recommend that when you tell your story you avoid referring to specific incidents and locations. We reserve the right to make your submission more anonymous, e.g., by blurring facial features on a video.
  • Anti-drug campaigners: Please feel free to use the material here in your own campaign. We will be developing various educational materials that you can download.
  • Recreational drug users: Given this information, is taking drugs worth the violence and mayhem it causes?
  • Everyone: Spread the word.
    • If you own a business, establish a zero-tolerance drug policy for you and your employees, not just because it is good business but also to support the drug violence victims.
    • If you are an employee, urge your employer to establish a zero-tolerance drug policy for the same reasons.

This post was submitted by members of the Texas Medical Association Council on Health Promotion. The council is one of several TMA entities responsible for implementing a directive from the TMA House of Delegates that the association “promote physician engagement to help influence state drug policies on illegal drug use and awareness of how U.S. demand for illicit drugs contributes to border violence.”

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