Photos from Rappler/AFP
MANILA, Philippines — Ending the drug problem in the Philippines should first focus on preventing people from trying drugs in the first place, latest survey results of the Dangerous Drugs Board indicate.
It's important to find ways to deter people from using drugs since retention rates – defined as the percentage of drug users that will continually use a specific illegal drug – are very high.
Results of the 2015 Nationwide Survey on the Nature and Extent of Drug Abuse in the Philippines show that the drug retention rate is currently at 28% for shabu and 24.7% for marijuana.
This means that “if a person has tried it, the probability of using it again is high,” DDB explained.
So the “first mission order” is to prevent the 4.8 million lifetime users – Filipinos who have used illegal drugs at least once in their lives – from continuing their usage.
“Ang key message natin ay huwag na gumamit at huwag na mag-try kasi mataas ang retention rate (Our key message is to not use and not try illegal drugs because retention rate is high)," DDB Chairperson Benjamin Reyes emphasized.
Meanwhile, the survey results also show that there are 1.8 million current drug users. This refers to individuals who are currently using or have used illegal drugs more than once from January 1, 2015 to February 5, 2016.
The survey on national drug abuse situation was conducted by Resources, Environment and Economics Center for Studies Incorporated (REECS) and commissioned by DDB. Face-to-face interviews were done from December 5, 2015 to February 5, 2016, among 5,000 respondents across the Philippines. It had a ±0.9% margin of error.
Education is key
Pulling an individual away from the dangers of illegal drug mostly involves a “behavior change communication campaign” which includes specifically “resisting and staying away from peer pressure.”
The start of drug use, according to the DDB survey results, was mostly attributed to curiosity and influence of friends.
About 48% of the respondents said that “curiosity or desire to experience” is the top reason for trying a drug while 38% pointed to peer pressure. In fact, 8 out of 10 instances of first-time use happened inside a friend’s house.
Meanwhile, 88% of respondents said that it was their friends who provided drugs “free of charge” in several instances.
Because of these survey results, the fight against illegal drugs should be a “campaign showing the ill effects of a bad company and a campaign to choose your friends wisely.”
The Philippine government has been vocal about highlighting the effects of drug use in the country’s education system.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, on July 28, said that students will understand better if they see real life stories of drug addiction. (READ: Briones: Schools must teach 'real life stories' on dangers of drugs)
President Rodrigo Duterte, during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July, expressed his approval of drug education in basic education, indicating plans to incorporate “mandatory education about the evils of drugs” in schools. — Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.