In addition to voicing his concerns on marijuana, heroin, and the dangers of using them to improve one's "wellbeing," Cardinal Turkson also pointed to the risks of other addictive behaviors such as gambling, saying its legalization, even in cases aimed at unmasking its criminal managers, "exponentially increases the number of pathological players."
"Moreover, taxation by the state is to be considered incompatible from an ethical standpoint and contradictory in terms of prevention," he said, adding that the development of "models of intervention and adequate monitoring systems, associated with the allocation of funds, is highly desirable to tackle the phenomenon."
The cardinal noted that as the array of addictions continues to diversify, "indifference and at times indirect complicity in this phenomenon contributes to diverting the attention of public opinion and governments, focused on other emergencies."
Plans to fight the increasing demand for drugs often collapse, he said, explaining that the present-day state of addictions shows "gaps in planning, policies and prospects," which in turn is a sign of "sluggish progress" in the face of the drug market, "which is highly competitive and flexible to demand, and always open to novelties such as recently-created, extremely powerful synthetic opiates, ecstasy and amphetamines."
"It is precisely the growing and widespread consumption of ecstasy that may serve as an indicator of how the use of illicit substances has now spread into everyday areas of life," he said, adding that it could also be an indication of how the ecstasy user no longer identifies with the heroin addict, but "with the new profile of the user of multiple substances and alcohol."
Because of this, strategies of intervention can't depend solely on reduced damage, "nor can drugs still be considered as a phenomenon that is collusive with social disorder and deviance."
Rather, damage reduction "must necessarily involve taking on board both the toxicological aspect and integration with personalized therapeutic programs of a psycho-social nature, without giving rise to forms of chronic use, which are harmful to the person and ethically reprehensible," the cardinal said.
Cardinal Turkson stressed the importance of not seeing the addict as a problem to be solved or as being beyond the hope of rehabilitation.
To consider people as irrecoverable, he said, "is an act of capitulation that denies the psychological dynamics of change and offers an alibi for disengagement from the addict and the institutions that have the task of preventing and treating."
"It cannot be accepted that society metabolizes drug use as a chronic epochal trait, similar to alcoholism and tobacco, withdrawing from exchange on the margins of freedom of the state and the citizen in relation to substance use," he said.
The cardinal recognized that there is no singular cause of drug use, but rather a panorama of causes including the absence of a family, various social pressures, the propaganda of drug dealers, and even the desire to have new experiences.
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"Every drug addict has a unique personal story and must be listened to, understood, loved, and, insofar as possible, healed and purified," he said.
"We cannot stoop to the injustice of categorizing drug addicts as if they were mere objects or broken machines; each person must be valued and appreciated in his or her dignity in order to enable them to be healed."
For the cardinal, part of this process means finding effective means of prevention, beginning with education.
"The scenario which we must all face is marked by the loss of the ancient primacy of the family and the school, the emptying of authority of adult figures and the difficulties that arise in terms of parenting," he said, stressing that this is not time for "protagonism," but rather for "networks" that are capable of "reactivating social educational synergies by overcoming unnecessary competition, delegation and forms of dereliction."
"To prevent young people from growing up without care, bred rather than educated, attracted by 'healing prosthetics,' as drugs appear to them, all social actors must connect and invest in the shared ground of basic and indispensable education values aiming at the integral formation of the person."
In this regard, educational aspects "are crucial," he said, especially during adolescence, when youth are more vulnerable, and at the same time curious and prone to periods of depression and apathy.