PHILIP'S BLOG: Is it a civil right to be addicted?
BY PHILIP PATSTON
I’ve had many addictions throughout my half-century of existence in this realm – though I didn’t start until my early- to mid-teens. Cigarettes, pot, coffee, alcohol. The first three I’ve kicked to a large extent, though I still indulge in them in a less compulsive way.
Alcohol is my last bastion of sobriety. Red wine, particularly merlot, is my mea culpa. I drink it daily, in larger volumes than, in terms of current health trends, are 'acceptable'. Yet I run a business, manage a unique lifestyle and seem to be pretty successful to boot.
And, 20 years ago, I was normal. But now I have a 'moderate drinking problem', according to Community and Drug Services (CADS).
So, what’s changed? Why have I suddenly become a 'problem statistic', targeted by ads, websites and social innovating health gurus about how much I drink?
To cushion the blow, though, thanks to John Kirwan and Mike King, I have an 'illness' and if I 'recover', I’ll be a 'survivor'.
To be a survivor. My life’s ambition. Yeah. Nah.
I have no problem, I am not ill. I like red wine and choose to drink it to get the benefit of being relaxed and feeling better about living in a stupid, chaotic, meaningless world.
Disclaimer: I’m a cynical realist.
In the 1940s and 50s, Governments around the world promoted cigarette smoking. In some cases, doctors recommended smoking as a health promoting activity. Less than a century later, our Government has a vision for a smoke free Aotearoa and its strategy to achieve this is to gradually raise the price of smokes.
The effect? Some people are quitting. Success? Maybe, but what we’re not talking about is this: smoking is now a luxury for the rich. For the poor, it’s torture. An addiction becomes more and more expensive, leading to crime and punishment.
Section 9 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 states, "Everyone has the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, degrading, or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment."
As righteous as a smoke free NZ may seem, are we subjecting poor communities to 'torture or ... cruel, degrading, or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment'?
Meanwhile, I can buy a bottle of wine at Countdown for less than half the cost of a glass at a pub. But I’m only meant to drink two glasses, four times a week, to not have a problem or illness.
Adding to the irony, last week, our Parliament voted against Chloe Swarbrick’s cannabis legalising bill, after accepting David Seymour’s assisted dying bill.
As a supporter of both bills, Mojo Mathers couldn’t have reflected my thoughts better:
Someone told me today that, 100 years ago in the US, farmers were legally obliged to grow hemp as 10% of their crop in order to produce rope etc. A 10% hemp tax. Hah.
There are some inherent contradictions in the way we respond to the use of and addiction to substances, which is creating even more inequality among our communities, and causing harm to our most underprivileged.
We are living in an environment where addiction is or has been condoned. Now we are punishing, vilifying and pathologising people, simply due to a change in moral and ethical philosophy (in the same way homosexuality was illegal one day, then legal the next).
I think I and others have a civil right to be addicted, based on the social environment and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
What do you think?
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