A report released by the UN last week revealed that Turkey ranks as first country in Europe in drug related deaths. In this week’s interview, we talked to Turkey’s prominent experts on the issue, Prof. Dr. Kültegin Öğel.
Prof. Ögel mentions that the report of UN shows the fact how Turkey is unable to look after the drug addicts in the country and adds: “We tell the addicted person to ‘come and get clean’. However, we do not tell them why they need to do so. And, what are we going to do if they cannot get clean? We do not have any measures in that regard. In other words, we have no policies for damage reduction, unfortunately.”
Ögel also drew attention to the fact that reasons leading people to abuse drugs have changed since 2005. While drug usage used to be something observed mostly in groups with high socioeconomic place in the society until the year 2005, it then became completely opposite, he says and explains: “One of the most significant reasons for that is unhealthy urbanization. For example, you can call certain places in İstanbul such as Bağcılar, Pendik, and Tuzla neither a city nor a village. Because, in these kinds of places, there are no parks and social and cultural facilities, which are things needed in a city. There are no activities for children and the youth to do. Their mere activity is going to a mall. And, in such surroundings, the youngsters begin having a tendency towards drug use”.
Firstly, as an expert on the issue, what would say about the main reasons leading one to use drugs?
Actually, there are many reasons leading a person to use drugs. What’s more significant is when these reasons are observed together in one case. For example, having divorced parents seems to be a risk factor; however, it cannot be so simply by itself. If parents have problems and the child with these parents have easy access to drugs, as well as, friends who use drugs, then, abuse becomes more likely. But if we were to broadly rank the factors leading to drug abuse, we can say the familial problems appear to be the number one reason. Second is the environment, while third happens to be genetics… Of course, personality traits – such as hyperactivity or excessive introversion – also play a role.
According to the report released by BM last week, Turkey ranks at the first place among European countries in drug abuse related deaths. How do you see this finding?
Another reason for drug related deaths to appear this high in numbers is due to new methods put in application in detecting such deaths. Therefore, the increase observed appears to be grand.
But this does not change the fact that we are indeed the country with most such deaths in Europe, right?
Of course, when compared with other European countries, we are at first place especially with regards to drug related deaths of people under 18.
As far as I know, deaths related to bonzai and similar synthetic drugs – which make up one thirds of abuse in the country – still cannot be detected. Therefore, these deaths are not recorded as ‘drug related deaths.’ In this case, shouldn’t the number of recorded drug related deaths be below the actual number?
Yes, there are two types of records. One is deaths directly caused by drugs and the other is indirect ones. Comparisons such as the one in the UN report are conducted mostly on direct deaths. As you mean, we do not know the deaths in Turkey indirectly caused by drugs. We do not know how many more people die because of it. But in Europe, indirect deaths are also monitored and recorded.
Turkey’s TUBIM (Drug and Drug Abuse Monitoring Center), which is under the police department, stopped sharing with the public its reports on drug abuse. So, we now have to find out about this problem of our country from countries abroad. Having said this, let’s continue with the UN report. What does it tell us?
The fact revealed by these numbers is that we are unable to look after our addicts. We tell them to ‘come and get clean’ but we do not explain to them why they need to do so. And, what are we going to do if they cannot get clean? We do not have any measures in that regard. In other words, we have no policies for damage reduction, unfortunately. Study of addictions is a seperate field in itself; we need different methods.
Bonzai is today Turkey’s most abused drug. It makes up one thirds of all drug abuses. What was it like before bonzai and how things changed after it?
Before bonzai, thinner and glue used to be the most commonly abused substances. The substances used nowadays, such as bonzai, have more impact. And, when you look at the population using bonzai today, you see that those who used to use thinner and the like are now bonzai users. And, one of the most significant reasons for this is that bonzai is too cheap. And, its production, as well as, its sale, is also too easy.
What kind of changing tendencies do you observe in drug use?
Until 2005, drug use was common among people with high socioeconomic status. After 2005, this trend became the opposite. And, one of the most significant reasons for that is unhealthy urbanization. For example, you can call certain places in İstanbul such as Bağcılar, Pendik, and Tuzla neither a city nor a village. Because, in these kinds of places, there are no parks and social and cultural facilities, which are things needed in a city. There are no activities for children and the youth to do. Their mere activity is going to a mall. And, in such surroundings, the youngsters begin having a tendency towards drug use. Plus, parents (in big cities) no longer have enough control over the children.
Let’s look at the rehab phase: what kinds of rehab methods are used in Turkey?
What do you expect of any ill person? You expect them to come to the hospital so you can take care of them. But addiction is not like this; addicts do not want to come to the hospital. We must go to them. We must conduct studies on the streets and reach them. Otherwise, if you tell the addict to get in the queue in the hospital at 8 in the morning and tell him/her that you’ll be seeing them in about 4 hours, they are not going to stay and wait there. Plus, an addict will most likely be unable to come to the hospital at 8 am. We think as if the addict wants to get treatment but most of them do not want that at the beginning. Because, it requires a tough change. Therefore, although the average number of people abusing drugs in our country is below the average in European countries, we get the highest number of deaths.
Front-page article of BirGün published on 3 July 2017, with the title of ‘The reason behind this picture is unhealthy urbanization’
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