Family and society in general can play an influential role in assisting drug addicts to overcome drug addiction, as one of the main reasons behind youth addiction to drugs is their families’ ignorance and lack of positive supervision.
Experts in the field, Mr. Fakhr El-deen Magdy Ahmed (a former drug addict), and his wife Mrs. Shaimaa Mahmoud share their understanding of the subject.
Mrs. Shaimaa Mahmoud as a member of “The Future Guardians,” in Egypt, after dealing with different ex-addicts, believes that drug addiction is a psychological illness, which reflects addictive behavior.
Addictive behavior is scientifically defined as:
“Any activity, substance, object, or behavior that has become the major focus of a person's life to the exclusion of other activities, or that has begun to harm the individual or others physically, mentally, or socially,” said Mahmoud.
She added that such behavior may develop in childhood, and if not fixed by then, the child is at risk of substance or psychological dependence in one way or another later in their lives. Whenever they meet the source of joy that compensates the deficiency they have, they will cling to it.
The more risky factors an individual experience, the more vulnerable to drugs they become. However, she asserts that finding parents who are aware enough to discover such behavior is rare.
Unawareness of child development, that not all children are alike, and that they should be treated accordingly, makes parents abuse their children unknowingly. She observed that a great deal of drug abusers have suffered unstable family relationships or were exposed to physical or sexual abuse, which increased their risk of drug abuse later on in life.
The Role of Society!
Fighting addiction needs collective attention and action. It’s not about governments and drug dealers only. It’s a system that includes the whole society. The problem in some countries is that they only stress on awareness, and forget about prevention. Awareness usually works with adults, while prevention starts early in childhood since taking protective procedures reduces a person's risk of developing addiction.
Every day new methods are discovered to handle the problem. Mahmoud mentioned her experience of promoting awareness of drugs in children through programs, which define drugs and their impact on one’s body and life; it helps to turn the table over.
The level of curiosity in children is aroused when focusing only on awareness, and strange questions about how to get drugs are asked , including what the different benefits they get from different drugs like heroine or hashish are So that they can try them, not to develop or enhance their awareness.
So now, “The Future Guardians” are working on prevention programs with adolescents through training kids on assuredness. Children need to gain the skills of having a will, and perseverance in knowing and asking for their rights. They also need to be morally empowered to make informed choices in their lives.
“The Future Guardians” started teaching children how to have a strong innate voice, in order, not to fall prey to others compulsion or pressure from peers. “The Future Guardians” would make children reach the point that if some one offered them a cigarette they would refuse ensuing that it’s harmful, and that they will not gain any benefit from taking that risk - these programs are what work best.
Civil organizations that fight drug addiction have called on governments, and societies to establish continuing and effective awareness campaigns that challenge all sorts of addictive behavior.
In addition, civil organizations are in desperate need for increasing subsidized rehabilitation centers. For example in Egypt, only 300 subsidized beds are provided by the government, and the rest are profit-making hospitals, where a bed costs at least 3000 Egyptian pounds a month.
While the civil organizations "Hemaya Anti" drug campaign targeted 5000 addicts to cure, in Egypt, only 70 were able to get free treatment, when they got response from over 5000 addicts whom they could not help due to resources limitation. The society has to understand that addiction is a disease, and an addict does not develop such habits because they are deviants. Society has to look at addicts as patients who need help because no one is perfect.
Advice to Youth
For young adults, addiction is usually about proving themselves, however; they have to understand what the true meaning of 'being cool' is.
Fakhr El-deen Magdy Ahmed has been a Substance Dependence Counselor for seven years, and is a former drug addict at the same time. After recovering, he discovered that, the 'cool guy' nowadays is someone who completes his studies successfully, gets a decent job, manages to get a car, and starts to build a family.
Ahmed is the one who understands that life is not about pleasure, and having all wants satisfied without paying a price. However, this new concept is not perceived until one matures, but addicts never think clearly in order to realize such facts even if they pass the age of maturity.
Ahmed advises youth to be moderate in their feelings and actions, and to watch out for three factors in any behavior:
Do what you want to do without extreme attention.
Don’t get so obsessed that you start seeking it out even if it negatively impacts upon your relation with Allah the Almighty, people around you, and your responsibilities.
Don’t lose control over pleasurable activities - set time limits and limit how much,. otherwise, you will be dependant on such behavior making such past-times addictive.
Our brains are wired by chemical substances, and for survival, the mind reinforces instinctive behaviors such as eating, drinking, shelter or physical intercourse by producing chemicals that induce pleasurable feelings such as happiness, relaxation, and security.
Moreover, addiction discourages us from other behaviors by inducing pain, and that is how we respond to rewards and punishments. So, through learning when we experience pressures or painful feelings, our minds guide our thoughts, ability to form solutions, and thereby achieve more pleasure, and less pain.
We should realize the real purpose behind our creation, and that pleasure is not the real target. And that’s why the Arabic word of mind is “aql” meaning to tie, restrict and control.
We need to exercise self-denial, where we control our impulses and feelings. That is why there are periods of fasting to remind us of our weakness and dependence. Freeing ourselves from such addictive behaviors allows us to submit to Almighty Allah’s Will.
However, we are all susceptible to sin. Therefore, Allah the Almighty created us to sin, repent and to learn from our mistakes, but not if the sin negatively impacts on the sound functioning of our minds. For which we need help.