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Don’t Put the Blame on Abusers

Fanny Budiman

As our current president, Joko Widodo stated, drug abuse in Indonesia is a serious problem. We have been struggling with these issues for the past few decades, yet our problem hasn’t come to an end. It gets worse. According to BNN, in 2018, drug abuse cases among students in 13 provinces in Indonesia reach 3,2 percent of the total population or equal to 2,29 million people. The numbers goes up quite significant compared to 1,77 percent in 2017. From the statistics, it is clear that drug dealers’ main target are students.1 Students are the main targets for drug dealers as their judgements aren’t as good as adults. Adolescents are prone to peer pressure and environmental influences. This emphasizes the important role of education about drug abuse, particularly on primary school and junior high school. Teachers should be aware of the dangers of drug abuse, therefore they could educate their children not to do so. Growing up being adults, I think teachers, especially on the primary level, holds a major part influencing my values that I believe ‘till today. Teachers inspire. I was lucky to have a chance to be in an excellent school with a good environment and good teachers. And I know millions of kids don’t have the chance that I had. Instead of upgrading school facilities, I think the government needs to focus on upgrading teachers. What I mean by upgrading teachers are to support them by upgrading salary and providing them training, also to improve their quality of life. I believe by doing so, the stigma of teacher being poor will be banished and eventually, the educational industry will be filled with tremendous amount of excellent teachers. Aside from education, I think it is important to look at the core problems on why people are attracted to use substances. People use substances to make them feel comfortable and happy for a moment. Stress from workload, being treated like shit by their bosses, family problems, broken home, broken relationship, all of these vanished for a moment thanks to alcohol, nicotine, hallucinogens, stimulants, you name it. The stress are often aggravated by “small things” like traffic jam in rush hours, crowded trains, lousy public transport, long wait on grocery store, polluted environment, rising price of groceries etc. These things might appear small to you, but it might be huge for someone else. WHO stated that these common problems might have deleterious consequences for mental health in general and substance use problems in particular, increasing the risk of heavy drinking.2 Alcohol use might lead to drug abuse of any type. From my point of view, if I were a critical, judging drug abuser who happen to hate living in Indonesia very much, why would the government bother campaigning about “saying no to drugs” without actually improving things

that matters, like public transport or labor salary? I believe by improving the quality of life in Indonesia, it will automatically decrease the number of substance use problems. What I suggest for the government to do is to change the way they look at drug abusers and start treating them differently. Attempting to arrest 3 millions drug abuser won’t solve the problem. The government need to understand that drug abusing is a form of behavioral disorder just like free sex, online gaming addiction, etc. UN stated that drug abuse is a form of health disorder, just like coronary heart disease. Start treating them like a patient, not a prisoner. Care about their quality of life, instead of focusing to release new laws and regulations every year. Every time I read the news about the rate of drug abuse in Indonesia, the articles very often mentions about the ideas for new rules and regulations without any other innovative actions, which is sad. Laws and regulations haven’t significantly improve things because honestly, our law enforcement sucks. IDNTimes stated that there are 72 drug-dealing international networks doing their operation in Indonesia.3 I assume it is related to our corruption issues where police and government employees are easily bribe to keep their mouth shut. As a third-world countries, I think Indonesia needs to learn a lot from other countries regarding this substance use problem. Not all programs could be implemented in Indonesia but at least we got better ideas than continuing forming useless laws and punishments. For example, Portugal, being the first country that applied drug decriminalization as the solutions of drug abuse problem. It is started in 2001. The program consists of expanding harm reduction such as providing free needles to reduce HIV/AIDS transmission, expanding drug treatment, and they did a little change on the law of drug possession. Not all drug users go to jail, only those with 10 day supply of drugs in their pocket. Of course there are other penalties for drug users, but of course not the jail because the jail doesn’t solve the problems they had. This radical approach seems really weird at first look but the results are quite amazing. In 1999, Portugal had the highest rate of HIV amongst injecting drug users in the European Union. In 2000, people who used drugs accounted for 52 percent of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. In 2015, it decreased to only 6 percent of the new HIV/AIDS diagnoses were because of IV drug usage. Since 2001, HIV-related infections and deaths among IV drug users have consistently decreased.4 To sum up, substance use problems is a very complex problem and it is related to many aspects of our life. It often generates new problems regarding the wellbeing of this country. Drug abusers’ productivity went straight to zero while taxes are used to overcome this problem. These problems need comprehensive management and long term planning, because nothing good comes easy. Priority matters. I am very happy knowing that our

current president know that infrastructure is our priorities as it directly affects the quality of life, productivity, and other things that support the economy of the country. Citizens, the government, businesses, and organizations need to stick together to overcome the problems. With teamwork and determination, there are still hopes for drug-free Indonesia.


1. Ristianto C, Wedhaswary ID. ​BNN Sebut Penyalahgunaan dan Peredaran Narkotika



an-peredaran-narkotika-semakin-meningkat[Accessed Sep 10, 2019].



2. WHO. Substance use problems in developing countries. Available from:



Namira I, Wicaksono BD, Novianto W. 16 Fakta Penyalahgunaan Narkoba di




arkoba-di-indonesia/full[Accessed Sep 10, 2019].



Drug Policy Alliance. Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Learning from a Health and

Human-Centered Approach.