Keep an Eye on Drugs! They’re Closer than You Think
Kwon Jong-hwan Reporter
Kim Min-jin, Kim Ju-myeong Club- reporter
Have you ever think deeply about drugs? Recently in Korea, problems about drug trafficking and the use among celebrities and singers has become a huge problem. Numerous drug scandals have flared up which is informing us that Korea is no longer a drug-free safe zone. Thus, we shouldn’t consider this incident casually and should think about drugs carefully.
How Much Do You Know about Drugs?
Since drugs are illegal in Korea, the general public has no chance to interact with drugs. So no one can use or even see drugs. Consequently, the majority of Koreans don’t know much about drugs and often think of them as an unconditional vice. As proof, in “Mayak” (Korean word for drugs.), ‘yak’ means medicine and ‘Ma’ means numb. However, according to “We Do Not Know Drugs”, many people know ‘Ma’ as the meaning of ‘devil’ and misinterpret drugs as medicine of the devil. The definition of drugs may differ depending on the country, but in Korea the definition is as follows.
Since drugs are illegal in Korea, the general public has no chance to interact
with drugs. So no one can use or even see drugs. Consequently, the majority
of Koreans don’t know much about drugs and often think of them as an
unconditional vice. As proof, in “Mayak” (Korean word for drugs.), ‘yak’ means
medicine and ‘Ma’ means numb. However, according to “We Do Not Know
Drugs”, many people know ‘Ma’ as the meaning of ‘devil’ and misinterpret drugs
as medicine of the devil.
The definition of drugs may differ depending on the country, but in Korea the
definition is as follows.
Narcotics Control Act
Article 2 (Definitions)
The term "narcotics" means narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and
Therefore, drugs in Korea means all narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and cannabis. As you can see, the definition of drugs
is quite integrated. It contains not only narcotic drugs like opium and heroin, but also psychotropic substances like LSD and
methamphetamine. According to “We Do Not Know Drugs”, drugs are usually divided to three groups.
• Kind : cocaine, crack, khat,
methamphetamine, nicotine (tobacco),
• Effect : hedonic euphoria,
animated energy, excitement, anxiety
• Kind: opium, morphine, heroin, GHB
• Effect: drowsy happiness, comfort,
deep sleep, anesthesia
• Kind: LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide),
Ayahuasca, MDMA (ecstasy)
• Effect: hallucination
The effects of Cannabis can be complex. It can also cause a weak hallucination effect. Therefore, people who want to classify
cannabis as an illegal drug say that it is a hallucinogen and people, who want to classify cannabis legal, say that it is a restrainer.
Furthermore medical cannabis was legalized in Korea in March 2019 in order to medicate neurology patients and activate studies
of manufacturing medicine for brain diseases, such as stroke. The main purpose of legalizing it is to develop a new treatment
method for drug-resistant epilepsy, but it is a risky trial, because even cannabis for medication contains a little amount of a
Interview with Writer of “We Don’t Know Drugs”, Ohoo
Please introduce yourself to the readers.
I am the writer of “We Don’t Know Drugs”. I wrote this book because I thought it would be fun to write and it would be good to talk about human rights, society’s attitude toward weak people by explaining drugs. I’m currently working on my second book. It will be an easy general science book for liberal arts college students, quite different from my previous book.
How unaware of drugs are Koreans or how indifferent to them are they?
We can’t see drugs easily around us. This means we can’t know much about them and there is no actual interest.
Koreans have negative opinions about drugs. Even reporters like us thought “Mayak” means ‘medicine of the devil’. Do you think such negative thoughts are related to their indifference to drugs?
Drugs themselves are hard to think positively about because they are actually not a good thing. However, the problem is that these thoughts only remain on the outer edge of the debate. This indicates not many people really know about drugs.
Recently, crimes involving drugs (like the Burning Sun scandal) are highly controversial and play a role in raising awareness of drugs. What do you think about this?
he most important issue is not using drugs for oneself, but committing sexual assault on ordinary citizens (mostly woman).Drugs give us a sense of invincibility and so we are not afraid of being arrested for our criminal behavior. Many people are not aware of the punishment because society itself is blind to drugs. These situations occurring one after another is evidence of people’s carelessness.
Do you think Korea’s ignorance of drugs influenced this incident?
Victims of this crime were not careful because they did not think they would use drugs. The police crackdown is not effective unless it is daily.
What do you think about the wave of drug legalization around the globe?
I think the ‘wave of legalization’ is not accurate. There is no such thing as a ‘wave of legalization’. Cannabis is hard to call a narcotic drug and there is no act of legalization to other drugs besides cannabis. There are some countries that changed their policies to cure drug addicts because harsh punishments are not effective.
For me, the rat park experiment* was the most impressive. Can you tell us about any other experiments or examples that show the connection between drugs and the environment?
Unfortunately I can’t find anything related with university students. However, I can give an example about Vietnam War veterans. During the war, 20% of the US army took heroin habitually. The Media reports that now society will overflow with heroin addicts. But against their expectations, 95% of solders could come off heroin without any great difficulty because their reason for drugs (the Vietnam War) had disappeared.
*The rat park experiment is a study related to drug addiction. Here is a summary of the findings:
You give rats two water bottles; one is normal water, and the other with water containing either cocaine or heroin. The rats will take the water with the drugs in it unconditionally and will eventually die. However, if you give the rat the most comfortable environment, rats will take the water with drugs selectively and can survive.
Lastly, do you have anything to say to our readers?
Always try to extend kindness to weak people, even if they have some faults. Thank you for reading.
Are Drugs Legally Allowed in the Netherlands?
The classic example of the country
where citizens legitimately use drugs
is the Netherlands. Most people
think that all kinds of drugs can be
used legally in the Netherlands, but
actually this is not the case. There
are only a few kinds of drugs that
can be used with the permission of a doctor. There are two situations
in which drugs can be used legally in the Netherlands.
The first is by controlling the process of purchase and distribution.
When the purchase and distribution of drugs is legalized, the whole
process can be conducted by the country and criminals involved in
the process distribution of illegal drugs can be punished. Thus, the
Netherlands reedited the legislation to legalize drugs, which would
allow the country to take control of the people who take drugs. The
other reason why the Netherlands can legally use drugs is because
using drugs legally lowers the percentage people who become drug
addicts and drug trafficking also decreases.
According to the UNOSD (United Nations Office for Sustainable
Development), the smoking rate of cannabis in the Netherlands is 7%,
while the figure in the USA is 14.8%. Furthermore, the percentage of
death caused by drug addiction in Germany is 8.3, Switzerland 10,
and Spain 11.3 times higher than that of the Netherlands.
Soft drugs, which have a low probability of addiction, are sold legally
in order to suppress the demand of the drugs with higher risk. Drugs
are usually sold in a place called a “coffee shop”, and only a person
with a medical marijuana card issued by a doctor can buy drugs.
Drugs Used as Medicine
Usually we think of drugs
as something bad and
harmful and something
that we have to avoid.
However, drugs can be a
good medicine for some
patients. Those with
severe disease that can’t
be relieved with pain
killers that we usually use
such as acetaminophen,
use drugs instead. For
example, methadone is
usually used as a pain killer for cancer patients
because its influence lasts for a long time.
When the patient needs a higher effect of the
drug, using fentanyl brings a similar but greater
effect than the methadone. Also, morphine is used
to enhance a patient’s blood pressure or relieve
vomiting or nausea. Morphine is the most popular
drug that almost everyone might have heard
about it. That is because of its unusual danger of
dependence a patient might develop. Thus, if a
patient needs a similar but a lower effect, usually
codeine is used. However, these kinds of drugs
should be used with doctor’s supervision because
the influence to your body is too heavy.
Interview from a Drug Expert
Han Eun-kyoung, the Instructor of the Korean Association Against Drug Abuse, Jeonbuk Chapter.
(319, Baekje-daero, Wansan-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do, Republic of Korea)
How can we prevent drug addiction?
Just a few years ago, only a small number of people had any experience with drugs in their professional lives. Nowadays, however, many younger people are taking drugs for a wide range of reasons.
Han Eun-kyoung- “The people in their forties were the youngest in prison decades ago. However, recently people in their twenties are the biggest population in prisons. Even people who are not associated with drugs professionally are addicted to drugs. I am seriously worried that the demand for drugs has expanded rapidly in such a short period of time.”
It may seem hard to find drugs in our city but there are lots of instances of people around us being addicted to and damaged by drugs. Furthermore, to prevent accidently taking drugs, we should be aware of the drinks we may be given by strangers when we are abroad. Also, be careful when you are given a pre-opened bottle of alcohol.
Where can we recover from drug addiction?
Generally, psychiatric hospitals are the place for curing drug addiction. Unfortunately, in Korea, people think if they go to a psychiatric hospital, everyone around them will see them in a negative way. For this reason, people are afraid to diagnose a drug addiction.
There are some ways of treating drugs without this burden. The Korean Association Against Drug Abuse can help you safely and comfortably get off of drugs through counseling with an expert and introducing a hospital where anyone can contact and tell you about the symptoms.
Also, you can ask for help from the ‘Mental health Welfare Center’ or find a psychiatric hospital directly. Furthermore, if you think non-drug users cannot empathize with your pain, there are voluntary private organizations called ‘Narcotics Anonymous’ where you can tell your story about drugs to other drug users and comfort people in a similar situation to you.
What are examples of overcoming drug addiction?
One story cited by the ‘Korean Association Against Drugs Abuse’ website worried us. The person who was threatened by an economic problem and who experienced a tragic family problem, got hooked on inhalant drugs because of an unhealthy friendship. He said he didn’t expect that he would go to prison because of his drug use.
The drug addiction made him fall into a prisoner’s life for 17 years. Every time he got free from prison, he was sent back, even though he was committed to recovering from his drug addiction. After he got free recently, he committed to serve his parents devotedly and keep trying to come off drugs.
As time passes, many people have experienced drugs because of the interest in drugs has increased and drugs flow into Korea through globalization. Last June 26 was the World Anti-Drug Day. We hope people are awakening to the dangers of drugs even if we have no connection to them. To protect yourself and your family and to make an anti-drug atmosphere in Korea, we should know about drugs more than ever.