CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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The drug corporations that kill

His name was Arnel. He was a bright, intelligent, fun-loving student and he was brilliant at math. He wanted to be an engineer and work in the United States (US) Navy Base at Subic Bay. He was my student. 
 
But the fun and happiness went out of his life, like that of so many other bright students, when his parents broke up. His father had found a bar girl from one of the hundreds of sex bars that were the only employment provided by the city administration in those days to their eternal shame.
 
It was sin city and the US sailors had to have their Filipina sex slaves, children and women, and drugs. It was a wild hedonistic town filled with erotica—child, woman and drug abuse as seldom seen. 
 
That was one of the reasons I started and led a successful campaign to remove and convert the US bases to an economic zone. Despite rampant corruption at the start, it is now a resounding success.
 
Family breakups and divorce are devastating for the children. They feel abandoned, confused and depressed. 
 
Ariel became despondent, deeply sad and filled with deep emotional pain. The shame of his father’s abandonment and hedonistic life hurt him. He stayed away from his friends, his concentration in class dropped, he lost interest in studying, became moody and despondent.  
 
He sought a damaging refuge in smoking marijuana. He was soon addicted.  
 
Like millions of people around the world, they are in pain, emotional and physical pain, frequently caused by the infidelity, betrayal, and the rejection of others. Many reach for drugs- legal and illegal.
 
They see using painkillers as a form of self-medication. It is a short fix, but the pain remains. That is what causes addiction. Arnel’s addiction and that of many others of my students in St. Joseph’s High School, Olongapo City, made me determined to provide a refuge and rehabilitation centre for the young drug dependents. The Marcos regime had started to shoot them during the hateful Marcos war-on-drugs.
 
I began the Preda Foundation 45 years ago in 1974 to provide sanctuary and rehabilitation to the young people who found drugs their only refuge. Hundreds of young people and children who are in dire circumstances are being helped until today. Arnel was cured and became an engineer.
 
Millions of pills and tablets are prescribed daily and millions more are available illegally on the black market. Drug pushers and distributers are everywhere only too willing to get a new customer. One of the biggest alleged drug pushers that are said to be destroying thousands of lives are the pharmaceutical corporations.
 
They are accused for making powerful pain-killing drugs and then distributing them without care or warning that they are powerfully addictive and that over-use can cause death. 
 
In the United States alone, those that died from overdose of prescribed and illegal drugs was 16,849 in 1999; rising to 20,237 in 2017. In Canada, more than 10,300 Canadians died as a result of an apparent opioid-related overdose between January 2016 and September 2018. 
 
More Americans have died from drug overdose than in the Vietnam War. At least 400,000 Americans have died in the past 20 years as a result of overdose. 
 
The various drug companies are pushing their dangerous products by giving gifts to doctors to prescribe them frequently. It continues to create addictions. 
 
Johnson & Johnson has been accused in a court case in Oklahoma of causing an epidemic of drug deaths by “a cynical, deceitful multimillion-dollar brainwashing campaign.” This was to spur sales and promote use of its powerful pain-reliever drug, Fentanyl, a killer drug that is over-prescribed. 
 
It is “the worst man-made health crisis in the history of the country and the state,” Oklahoma’s attorney-general, Mike Hunter, told the court. There are about 2,000 other court cases pending in the US against drug corporations.
 
Cannabis, or marijuana, is one of the most widely used drugs in the world today. This is the drug that Ariel fell for and its effects on him were frighteningly traumatic. 
 
The inability of authorities to control the availability of cannabis has caused some few governments to legalise it. This, some say, will take the criminality out of its use or possession and keep teenagers and youth out of jail and hopefully it will reduce crime rates and de-populate prisons. 
 
However, it’s addictive and people will steal to buy it. In the Philippines, the law is draconian. A person in possession of a small amount can get 12 years in prison. A suspect in possession of a small amount of crystal meth, a powerful drug, can be shot dead in a fanatical campaign to end drug abuse.
 
Growers have developed stronger, more potent strains and varieties of the plant that are now even more dangerous than before.  A recent research study showed that teenagers who smoke marijuana frequently suffer a slow-down in brain development. 
 
This extraordinary finding of the research, which involved 4,000 students in secondary school in Canada, showed that the ability to think and figure out problems had greatly deteriorated. 
 
Frequent smoking also resulted in dependency and weaker self-discipline. The students fell almost three years behind their non-smoking classmates. It is more damaging and toxic to the brain than alcohol. It can cause euphoria and after a pot session, depression follows.
 
In another study, it has been confirmed that the principal active chemical in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can cause schizophrenia. Killing suspects is not the answer. Drug use is a health challenge and we have to care and help all those addicted by the pharmaceutical companies or irresponsible use of painkillers.
 
 
 
 
 
Father Shay Cullen
www.preda.org