Daily Bulletin


Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation Contributor
image

Indonesia’s “war on drugs” is jeopardising years of hard work by civil society and public health sector to provide harm-reduction interventions. These have successfully reduced rates of HIV prevalence and other blood-borne illnesses among injecting drug users.

If Indonesia does not shift from its criminalisation and punitive approach to a public health approach in tackling the problem of drug abuse, it may face a larger health crisis in coming years.

A futile war

Last year, Indonesian President Joko Widodo declared a drug emergency and carried out executions of convicted drug dealers, including reformed Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

The National Narcotics Agency (BNN) has since continued the “war against drugs”, targeting not only drug producers, dealers and couriers but also users.

Newly appointed BNN chief Budi Waseso recently announced that drug users have until January to turn themselves into government-run rehabilitation centres. They face prosecution if caught next year, although the centres are not ready to provide necessary services.

BNN’s strategy is expensive and does not work. The annual budget of over IDR1.3 trillion is mostly allocated to supply reduction, which involves police arrests and seizure of narcotics.

BNN’s own estimates suggest it will only be able to seize 10% of the estimated supply of illegal drugs in the market.

The demand-reduction strategy has been marginalised and underfunded. In any case, forced rehabilitation is not effective in reducing demand for illegal drugs. It reinforces stigma and discrimination against drug users, destroying their chance to live a productive future life.

BNN was born to address public health crisis

It is unfortunate that Indonesia decided to have the police force spearhead BNN. The idea to set up an agency to solve the drug problems in Indonesia actually came from the civil society and health sector in 1999, in response to the HIV epidemic. At the time, injecting drug users contributed more than 80% of reported cases.

HIV and AIDS activists requested the then-president, B.J. Habibie, to establish a special agency to address this problem. Habibie responded by creating a national coordinating narcotics body.

We envisioned public health to be the agency’s priority, with policing as part of the mission. However, for some reason, the police was mandated to chair the coordinating body. When Megawati Soekarnoputri became president in 2002, she transformed the coordinating body into a armed agency, which became what is now BNN.

Activists withdrew their participation in BNN and organised their own response. Harm-reduction programs aim to reduce the negative consequences of drug use through practical strategies with respect for the rights of people who use drugs.

With Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia, I set up Kios Informasi Kesehatan as a health extension that reaches out to drug users. The aim is to reduce risks by educating them on how to clean their syringes or by providing them with clean needles.

In 2006, the Indonesian health minister issued a decree supporting harm-reduction programs and scaled up its interventions in other cities.

Repercussions of criminalisation of drug users

During the leadership of former BNN chief Anang Iskandar, harm-reduction programs received internal BNN support. He acknowledged that drug users are patients, not criminals.

As a result, HIV prevalence rates among injecting drug users continued to drop from 42% in 2011 to 36% in 2013.

But this investment in providing support for drug users will be lost with intensifying crackdowns on users. It will push users “underground” for fear of being followed and arrested if seeking our services.

A recent documentary, Dying a Slow Death: Inside Indonesia’s Drug War by the Indonesian Drug Users Network and Hungarian Drugreporter, shows how the drug war impacts the community.

The crackdowns may also raise the price of heroin in the market. For desperate poor addicts, this will drive them to seek out cheaper and more dangerous illegal drug options.

Already, Indonesia has seen a case of poisoning from Desomorphine, also known as Crocodile. The drug, a cheap substitute for heroin, is a highly addictive and dangerous substance that cause the user’s body to rot from the inside.

Associating drug use with morality

Perhaps the biggest problems in tackling drug abuse are the lack of common sense and a negatively skewed perception of drug users.

Evidence of the health gains from harm-reduction interventions are irrefutable. But these are often dismissed due to an entrenched view in the society that sees drugs as morally bad. Hence, we conclude anyone using the substance is morally deficient.

The enemies of society are the drug producers and dealers. But they represent less than 3% of the people in our prison cells. Drug users and couriers, who often come from the most marginalised groups in society, are overrepresented.

The power vested in the government should be used to save the lives of the victims and punish drug producers and traffickers.

Authors: The Conversation Contributor

Read more http://theconversation.com/indonesias-war-on-drugs-may-bring-health-crisis-52090

Writers Wanted

Schitt's Creek: the TV show has been showered with Emmys but is it worth the hype?

arrow_forward

COVID-19 and small island nations: what we can learn from New Zealand and Iceland

arrow_forward

'If JobSeeker was cut, the unemployed would be picking fruit'? Why that's not true

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Ten tips for landing a freelance transcription job

Transcription jobs are known to be popular in the field of freelancing. They offer fantastic job opportunities to a lot of people, but there are some scammers who wait to cheat the freelancers. ...

News Company - avatar News Company

How To Remove Rubbish More Effectively

It can be a big task to remove household rubbish. The hardest part is finding the best way to get rid of your junk. It can be very overwhelming to know exactly where to start with so many option...

News Company - avatar News Company

4 Tips To Pass Skills Certifications Tests

Developing the right set of skills is valuable not only to your career, but for life in general. You can get certified in these skills through obtaining a license. Without a certified license, y...

News Company - avatar News Company



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion