In Lebanon, a new rehabilitation centre is taking on societal depictions of drug addiction and users in an attempt to reframe the debate about drugs. Imad, a recovering drug addict who is currently in rehab and in the process of getting his life back to normal, is worried about how society and the legal system will treat him upon discharge.
Likening addiction to a medical condition, Imad stated that it requires the same kind of support that would be extended to somebody with any other kind of physical injury or illness. Imad rejected the widely-held societal idea that all addicts are criminals, arguing that the country’s penal system left him directionless and vengeful after he was discharged from prison.
The campaign ‘Support and Don’t Punish’, which campaigns against the criminalisation of drug addicts, drafted a survey to explore patterns of drug use and attitudes of young people towards drugs in Lebanon. It was found that cannabis is by far the most used illicit substance in the country, with 92% of drug users claiming to have used cannabis, followed by cocaine and salvia. Perhaps more importantly, almost two-thirds of respondents who use drugs said that it was easy to access them in Lebanon, and almost half of all respondents believed that the Lebanese Government should decriminalise drug use.
Calls for such measures within Lebanon are translating to political activism, with Support and Don’t Punish, along with the Sikun Association and several other associations, submitting a bill to the Parliament calling for an end to the criminalisation of drug use and a review of all existing drug laws. In addition, bills have been submitted to Parliament calling for the legislation of cannabis cultivation, though its proponents have since shifted their attention away from this campaign for fear that such a law would enhance quotas.
The Lebanese Government has long been engaged in a war against illicit drug use in the country. As recently as March this year, a security operation led to the arrest of drug lords in the Beqaa region, Beirut and Mount Lebanon.