Risk drug legalization in Romania - Opportunity or threat?

Risk drug legalization in Romania - Opportunity or threat?
Risk drug legalization in Romania - Opportunity or threat?

[Contributo selezionato da Filodiritto tra quelli pubblicati nei Proceedings “Fifth International Conference Multidisciplinary Perspectives in the Quasi-Coercive Treatment of Offenders – SPECTO 2016”]

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[Contribution selected by Filodiritto among those published in the Proceedings “Fifth International Conference Multidisciplinary Perspectives in the Quasi-Coercive Treatment of Offenders – SPECTO 2016”]

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NICA Remus1, Bălăuţă Dănuţ1, Vlaicu Luiza1

1West University of Timişoara (ROMANIA)

nicaremus2003@gmail.com, danut.balauta@gmail.com, vlaicu.luiza@gmail.com



The topic of drugs, drug use but also the debate on the legalization of soft drugs is a question with many shades, which stirs controversy globally. Drugs are classified even by the legislature in risk drugs and high-risk drugs. Although we cannot consider that Romania is in the situation of other countries faced with extreme violence associated with drug trafficking, the negative effects of criminalization are beginning to be felt. Drug smuggling rings have appeared and once a “classic” drug is harder to be found on the market, a new one arises immediately, while consumption is increasing instead of decreasing. If we look at other countries we observe that, although for years they have fought to stop drug use, using important human and financial resources, they still have thousands of victims, networks of organized crime and corruption. Among other arguments in favour for legalization we mention their use for medical purposes (e.g. for cancer patients), decreased crime associated with drugs, budget revenues. In contrast, the arguments against refer to the harmful effects on health, the addictive nature of drugs, facilitating the access of minors to the drug. This article discusses the pros and cons of legalizing risk drugs in Romania.


1. Introduction

A drug refers to any plant, animal or mineral substance which is used in the preparation of medicine or as a drug [8].

In the latest amendments to legal acts of the field, the legislature has preferred to use the term “psychoactive substances” for “narcotic products or medicine with similar effects” or “drugs”.

In Romania, consumption and trafficking of drugs is regulated by Law no. 143/2000 to prevent and combat illicit drug trafficking and consumption, as amended and supplemented. By this regulation, drugs are classified into risk drugs and high-risk drugs and the penalties are harsh and differentiated according to this classification, as well as the activity, the following being punishable: cultivation, production, manufacturing, experimenting, extracting, preparation, transformation, offering, offering for sale, selling, distributing, any kind of delivering, sending, transporting, purchase, possession, even for personal consumption or other operations, getting drugs in or out of the country as well as import or export, and high-risk prescription drugs given intentionally by a physician, without being necessary from a medical standpoint.

Drug addiction is the behavior that leads to the mandatory use of the drug and is characterized by the need to consume drugs, being “a cluster of physiological, behavioral, cognitive and psychological phenomena, developed after repeated administration, continuous or episodic use of a substance to obtain psychic effects or to remove an unpleasant state”. [2] Addiction can be of three types: psychological, physiological or mixed. Most drugs lead to mixed dependency. Psychological dependence (or mental dependence) refers to the need for substance use, continuously or intermittent, the removal of a dysphoric mood. Physiological dependence is characterized by the need to consume the substance to prevent withdrawal. [2]

The effects of drugs depend largely on the absorbed amount, personal history on drugs, the administration of the drug and the circumstances in which it is used (place, mental and emotional stability, user's entourage, simultaneous use of alcohol or other drugs).

There are several theories on drug use, especially for adolescents and youth.

Among the most important sociological theories that have been proposed to help explain drug use are the following: A. Social learning; B. Social control; C. Subculture; D. Selective interaction / socialization. [5]

A. Social Learning

Social learning theory proposes that the use and abuse of psychoactive substances can be explained by different exposure groups where consumption is awarded. These groups provide the social environment in which exposure occurs to definitions, invitations, and reinforcing social patterns of consumption or withdrawal of a substance. Definitions are learned by imitation, and their social reinforcement by members of the group with which one is associated. [5]

B. Social control

Social control theory has some similarities with the theory of subculture, but there are more differences. While the subculture theory discusses drugs in terms of how the group facilitates drugs, social control theory aims to the factors that prevent people to adopt a deviant behavior. So what causes drug use, like most deviant behaviours, is the absence of social control that generates compliance. Most of us do not manifest deviant or criminal acts because of close ties with conventional social institutions. If these connections are loose or broken, we will be freed from the rules of society and we can take deviant actions - including drugs. Not so much the ties of drug users to a unconventional subculture attracts them to drugs, but the lack of links with a culture of compliance which leaves them free to drugs. [5]

C. Subculture

The main thesis of the subculture theory is that involvement in a particular social group with favorable attitudes toward drug use is a key factor in encouraging someone to his own drug use and involvement in a group that exhibits negative attitudes towards drug tends to discourage such use. Drug use is expected and encouraged in certain social circles and strongly discouraged, even punished in others. [5]

D. Selective interaction / socialization

The term “selective interaction” refers to the fact that potential drug users not randomly fall in consumer social circles; they are attracted to certain individuals and circles - subcultural groups - because their values ​​and activities are compatible with those who are current consumers. There is a dynamic element of consumption: even before anyone consumes a drug for the first time, he or she is “ready” or “initiated” for consumption - or, somehow, socialized in a anticipatory way - because its values ​​are already in agreement with those of the drug subculture. As a result, someone chooses friends who share the same values ​​and are attracted to consumption and current consumers. When one makes friends who are drug users, he/she becomes socialized by the subcultural group of consumers, both in values ​​ compatible with consumption and values ​​consisting of consumption. [5]


2. Legalization or prohibition?

The topic of drugs, drug use but also the debate on the legalization of soft drugs is a question with many shades, which stirs controversy globally. Although we cannot consider that Romania is in the situation of other countries faced with extreme violence associated with drug trafficking, the negative effects of criminalization are beginning to be felt.

Drug smuggling rings have appeared and once a “classic” drug is harder to be found on the market, a new one arises immediately, while consumption is increasing instead of decreasing. If a few years ago Romania was a transit country for drugs that were destined for other European countries, it has now become a country of consumption.

Those dissatisfied with the current legislation and the position of authorities on the topic focus on the expensive nature of current regulations compared to the apparent lack of effectiveness. Thus, this article will treat the evidence and arguments of the two opinions: should prohibition of cannabis be abandoned or not?

To be more precise on the subject of drug legalization it is necessary to understand what this implies. Legalization is often confused with decriminalization. Legalization would be to eliminate the prohibitions related to the consumption and trade of a drug; this trade would go under state control. The issue of legalization is only detailed for cannabis. Supporters of legalization suggest applying a control similar to that for alcohol. [1]

Decriminalization does not admit to criminal sanctions to certain categories of delinquent acts. For supporters of decriminalization, the Dutch model is a system where tolerance has allowed reducing drug-related crime. Decriminalizing all drug-related offenses is dangerous because it equates heroin with cannabis. Opponents of decriminalization believe that such a policy is difficult to implement because it facilitates access to drugs use. [1]


2.1. Arguments for and arguments against

In analysing the evolution of this phenomenon, we see advantages of legalization of soft drugs/risk drugs (cannabis) in Romania.

It is well known that drugs have been used since ancient times, probably discovered by chance, from simple human curiosity to try the plants around him. They have been used as medicines, painkillers, in rituals, commerce or conflicts.

Currently, society divides drugs in two main categories, namely legal and illegal. We must keep in mind that this classification is arbitrary, what we now consider illegal, was once considered legal. Also drugs considered legal in one country are illegal in another country, and that even at European level. Although this classification is made according to the degree of dependency and degradation produced in the human body, statistically, we actually see that “legal” drugs are causing more havoc. Tobacco use is directly responsible for deaths caused by lung cancer and indirectly for other diseases, which are worsened. Alcohol causes more indirect problems, excessive alcohol consumption causing the most road accidents and violent conflicts.

Those in favor of legalizing cannabis insist that this drug (and others) have been and will be used in medicine, for example cannabis is used to treat multiple sclerosis, HIV / AIDS, glaucoma or cancer.

By legalizing risk drugs (or soft drugs, namely cannabis) their price would fall, in Romania being quite high compared with other European countries, while decreasing consumption of drugs like heroin, whose price is slightly lower, but addictive. High-risk drug use also causes and increases crime, especially for young people who steal and practice prostitution or to sell their goods to procure a new dose.

Being an illegal activity, drug trafficking chooses his victims from among the most vulnerable people, particularly adolescents and young people who are attracted to this trap out of curiosity, to align to the requirements for acceptance from others and who initially are “lured” with a free dose, but they shortly become consumers. For these people, the social group, their friends, the idea of ​​being “cool” is much more interesting and desirable as well as the euphoria and changing of the perception of time, the intensifying of senses.

The influence of other teenagers and of people their age may be higher than parental influence, they tend to do everything to “mirror” the circle of friends by copying their behavior, taking their habits, testing their limits and the limits of each other. But the influence of parents must not be ignored. If they smoke, drink alcohol or use various drugs, especially in front of the teenager, inducing the idea that this behavior is normal, the child will react accordingly.

The fact that these activities of consumption and sale of drugs are totally banned, make the black market grow, developing an entire underground industry in the area.

Organized drug selling in stores would reduce the risks posed by various drugs, especially substances with which they are mixed or are dissolved, for the consumer, soft drugs being previously checked and cataloged.

Criminalization of certain substances encourage the creation of new ones, synthetic, which are difficult to discover by authorities and can have devastating effects until their discovery. For example, in 2014, there were 18 alerts and 130 notifications in Europe for new psychoactive substances. Romania (from collaboration of National Anti-drug Agency with the Central Laboratory of Analysis and Profiling of Drugs in the General Inspectorate of Romanian Police) sent in the EWS (the European Early Warning System on New Mixtures and Substances in the market) reporting forms for six new substances identified in the national territory. [6]

The legalization of soft drugs would bring significant revenues to the budget, thereby enabling the fight against traffickers, not consumers. Better information through the media on all aspects of drug use, presenting case studies on consumers, implementing programs in schools and universities, and the decriminalization of soft drugs would reduce consumption, especially among youth. For them, the drugs would no longer be the “forbidden fruit” that would arouse curiosity.

Ray Oakley states that “drug taking is a behavior” and thus it follows the same rules and principles as any other behavior, the basic principle being that this behavior persists when it increases the state of pleasure or reduces discomfort. Sometimes psychological dependence of a drug refers to the role it plays in the individual’s coping mechanisms (the way to cope with stressful situations, leisure, pleasure seeking, all of these become equivalent to drug use). Oakley’s message is that there is nothing unique or special about drug use, it’s a behavior like any other. [4]

Those in favor of legalization argue that people who become chronically addicted to drugs are like alcoholics, they are sick people. Consequently, it is an unfair approach from the state to punish them. Also, drug users (even ones that do not consume a high risk drug) are stigmatized, both by others and by specialists in social work who use inconsistent semantic concepts in their language that may enhance the social exclusion of the client, in this case, the consumer or drug addict. [3]

The people that are against argue that the arguments for legalization of drugs are just myths. Supporters of prohibition belive that legislation on drugs is effective and suppresses illicit use and cannabis should not be legalized because it is a “gateway drug” - works as a initiation drug before dangerous drugs like heroin or cocaine.

Another important argument against is the possible increase in the prevalence of HIV infection (due to injecting a drug, because of shared needles and syringes).

Also, drugs cause addiction, mental illnesses, they affect the body, sometimes pushing consumers towards suicide. Costs for detoxification treatments are becoming bigger and Romania lacks specialized centers in the field. From the time the consumer becomes an addict, life becomes an ordeal for himself, but also for the family; treatment is lengthy, requires much determination, and some damages sometimes, cannot be repaired. For example, cannabis affects the learning ability and the memory, and these effects can persist in adolescents for a few years; also, consumers under 16 are prone to schizophrenia.

Drugs isolate consumers from society and family, it can push them towards committing crime or prostitution to procure the required dose.

Reintegration into society of a former drug addict is difficult. He is regarded as “different”, like a patient, as a person who can ever yield to temptations of every kind.

Drugs can make the consumer get rid of inhibitions. Thus there is the risk of doing something that he/she may later regret: unprotected sex, robberies and even murders.

A real problem is the lowering age of consumers. The lack of information, not accepting the idea that it can become addictive, vulnerability, the thirst for knowledge and new sensations, low self-esteem, their attempt to integrate in a group and easy access to drug leads young people, even teens to start using drugs and then becoming dependent on the state of “high” given by the drug.

Although the legalization of soft drugs would bring money to the state budget from taxes, there is always a risk that drug stores would in fact be a mask for high risk drug trade, traffickers having the perfect way to attract new customers.

Another argument against the legalization of soft drugs is that some people will not be able to limit themselves and will always want more. Also, people and institutions that are against believe that legalization will greatly increase the number of consumers, which will then overtstrain the rehab centers that are already insufficient.


3. Conclusions

In this old debate regarding the legalization of cannabis, we find contradictory interpretations on the same reality, being attracted either on one side or the other, as they expose persuasive arguments.

Professor Gian Luigi Gessa, specialist in neuro-psycho-pharmacology and professor at the University of Cagliari, in a article published in the italian journal “Focus” said that “all psychoactive substances act in the brain by using the complicated mechanism of pleasure, which regulates activities such as that of eating or having sex. But pleasure, when it becomes an end in itself, obsessive, is not good, and that’s why nature chose to regulate it through a control circuit”. When the behavior that causes pleasure is repeated, satisfaction levels diminish. This does not happen in the case of psychotropic substances for which desire (a well known fact to alcoholics and smokers) does not diminish. Thus, it ends up becoming an obsession and addiction. [9]

Informing young people about drug categories, the risks to which they expose themselves once they become consumers, what it is to be dependent and how to get out of the mirage produced by the drug, through the media, the education system, national campaigns is very important. The focus should be on rehabilitation and on people who have overcome their dependence and their reintegration.

Responsibility for drug use is a responsibility for all of us, including the state. By starting education and risk awareness in this field, even from a single individual, gradually we would reach educating an entire society. Restricting a total consumption of drugs is not a solution, the same can be said about total decriminalization, but awareness of the negative effects will certainly lead to fewer consumers.

Drug abuse should be prevented and is not indicated, but ultimately we can not always correct or restrict human behavior, even if they are members of society, as Professor Mihail Radu Solcan (Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Politics and Morals) said:

“Can mature individuals be treated like young children? Must we supervise and correct their ways to have fun? If we admit that mature individuals are free and responsible for their actions, then the state cannot be put in the position of a teacher. No matter how much harm someone would do to himself by consuming narcotics for fun, there are no reasons to treat him as being immature. Others may prohibit getting behind the wheel, to operate the crane under the influence of drugs and so on, but not simply to have fun. It is the perspective of a liberal, nor for a democrat can the teacher-state be justified. For a democrat, the state must be under the control of individuals, not individuals under state control. Or, the teacher-state entails a system of surveillance and intervention that is not intended to refer the status of public opinion – in order to obey - but the public mood, to straighten it.” [7]



[1] Abraham, P., Richards, D., Senon, J. L. (2005). Dicţionar de droguri, toxicomanii şi dependenţe. Editura Ştiinţelor medicale. Bucureşti, p. 598, 474-475.

[2] Bărbat, C. A. (2010). Adolescenţii şi drogurile: repere socio-psihologice. Editura Victor Babeş. Timişoara, p.31.

[3] Goian, C. (2010). Zece categorii de inconsecvenţe semantic prezente în limbajul asistenţei sociale din spatiul românesc. Revista de asistenţă socială. No 1, 2010.

[4] Oakley, R. (1983). Drugs, society and human behavior. The C.V. Mosby Company. St. Louis.

[5] Rascanu R. (2004). Alcool și droguri: <<virtuți>> și capcane pentru tineri. Editura Universității din București. București, p. 65-72.

[6] National Anti-drug Agency, Raport Naţional privind situaţia drogurilor 2015.

[7] Osman O. (iunie 2009). Liberalizarea, singura ieşire din războiul drogurilor. Revista Capital.

[8] http://dexonline.ro/definitie/drog.

[9] http://www.descopera.ro/stiinta/6131372-mirajul-si-tragedia-drogurilor-de-la-placere-la-durere.