The Holy See
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Vienna, 16-17 April 2003


Mr President,

May I congratulate you on your appointment and express the hope that our study will succeed in evaluating the progress made, identifying difficulties and suggesting new ways to achieve the goals and objectives outlined in the Declaration of Policy adopted at the 20th Session of the UN General Assembly.

At the Holy See, by progress we mean the work of educating people to avoid narcotics abuse. In fact, our publications include a manual entitled "The Church, Drugs and Narcotics Addiction", a practical guide for teaching which provides answers to the most commonly-asked questions concerning prevention and guidance in the context of the drug phenomenon. We are making our manual, published in seven languages, available to this Commission. We have organized and held congresses, conferences and study meetings and encouraged rehabilitation centres in various countries of the world, offering guidance and inspiration to therapeutic communities.

We note that one of the problems is that the new generations lack an integral and complete education centred on the dignity of the human person and his or her value, as well as the radical prevention it can offer.

In response to this problem, I suggest putting a stronger emphasis on the role that overall education plays in the fight against drug abuse.

In fact, in turning to drugs, the drug addict is seeking new sensations that will give him unknown experiences of pleasure: but in so doing, they totally disrupt his harmony, destroying his body, the social fabric and the environment itself.

In offering drugs, the narcotics producer and trafficker are seeking money, power and well-being; but their well-being is only an illusion because they ruin themselves, leaving behind a total social, environmental and spiritual void.

Today's generations are suffering a crisis of interiority. They attempt to fill their emptiness with all kinds of sensations. Their slogan is, "I feel, therefore, I exist". Many television programmes and video games encourage it by presenting an imaginary virtual world of pleasure, violence and power. Drugs are supposed to be an easy and handy key that will open the door to this world.

This perspective must be exchanged for an overall vision of the human being: physical, psychological, social, environmental and spiritual: the result of an integrated education based on an objective overall ethic which is rooted in the structure of the person. Its basic principle is: "What builds up man is good, what destroys him is bad".

We point out several important steps in this overall education: to learn to think about oneself, to distinguish between well-being and happiness, to discover the value of life, to face up to life and its difficulties; to understand the authentic meaning of life, pleasure and sexuality; to foster responsible attitudes to life, to be able to develop in stages; to practise the virtue of temperance, self-control and of recognizing the limits of one's behaviour, to know how to choose and say "no" when necessary, to learn to respect laws; to be able to hope, to exercise one's will, reason, freedom and responsibility properly, and to respect the duty not to harm oneself; to learn to live for others.

This involves a rather complicated educational venture which, as such, can only be the result of a joint effort. It is an indispensable task on the part of parents, in which the other educational agents must share: family, school, Church, State, the international community, a healthy social context, the media, etc. This requires national programmes for rehabilitation in which the whole of society feels involved. In this combined effort the therapeutic communities play a very important role and are an invaluable support which must not be disregarded.

Those who teach about drugs must welcome drug addicts and guide them in their fight against their addiction, they must listen to them and choose the appropriate way to speak to those they find overwhelmed by this problem, and they must help them recover their own dignity in facing life and especially support their families in the difficult task of rehabilitation.

*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.23 p.10.