Like fake credentials, PNG’s treatment of academics is harmful
Noble art – the day Doug Beer sought the solace of the ropes

PNG’s intractable drugs problem: the worst is yet to come

Marijuana face painting
Marijuana face painting - drug use in PNG has become a destroyer of culture


KUNDIAWA - Each year on 26 June we try to tell people of the danger of drugs in Papua New Guinea; without much success so far. The problem is getting bigger, much more complicated and workable solutions are not presenting themselves.

Many of us working in the area of drug rehabilitation and education are fed up and frustrated.  We feel helpless and unable to do much - voices in the wilderness.

We work in isolation with no coordination, support or funding from either government or international donors.

Drug related problems are a serious dilemma affecting the development of PNG. Socio-economic problems are getting worse, they are exacerbated by drugs and people no longer live in peace and harmony.

Our cultural values and norms which once were our guide and discipline have been thrown to the winds. There is confusion our youth consuming more drugs – marijuana, homebrew and even harder stuff - that triggers more social problems.

The effects have become unbearable and there seem to be no known solutions. The consequences have become far greater than the problem itself.

Cannabis or marijuana has just become like another cigarette. It is sold in the open markets in both rural and urban areas.

The overall impact is an upsurge in law and order problems and increasing addiction and mental disorders, setting up a need for more specialist doctors, addiction counsellors and social workers that we simply do not have.

Nor do we have the facilities that government would usually provide – like drug clinics and detoxification units. Addicts become criminals; there is no fair treatment and rehabilitation filter.

Law enforcement bodies cannot do much to arrest the cultivators because most of the drugs are grown in remote places in the highlands provinces and are extremely difficult to identify and control.

People are ignorant. They need to know – but don’t - that drug issues are the main cause of social and other problems, including family problems, domestic violence, murder, rape, HIV AIDS and a range of other health issues.

And right at the top of the chain, we have no comprehension of the transnational crime syndicates which exchange high powered guns for the drugs we grow. This is hidden crime and it is complicated and beyond us..  The recent Southern Highlands and Hela violence may have been an eye-opener for the government in terms of weapons proliferation but we are blind to it.

Community support is needed to combat drug problems and also we need to revive our traditional laws, taboos, rituals and problem-solving methods that were once so effective.

But we have virtually lost our culture, and a person without a culture has a spiritual emptiness and this vacuum is often compensated for by taking drugs.

We need to adopt a cooperative model to reach a solution, understanding that the drug problem is not an isolated issue but a communal problem that needs a collective solution. All institutions – government, non-government, church and secular - must cooperate to achieve the desired result.

We have to assist our youth to do away with drugs, to live in peace and harmony and become better citizens.

More specific awareness of the dangers of drugs is required. Ignorance is a killer. Knowledge is a key part of the solution.

The PNG government must provide funding for awareness and training and for law enforcement bodies to tackle the problem on the ground – whetehr in cultivating, selling or using drugs.

If nothing is done, the worst is yet to come.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Philip Kai Morre

Kizza Marie - Thanks for your comment.

PNG is an agricultural society from livestock to food production including cash crops like coffee, cocoa and tea.

However, the government needs to promote agriculture on a bigger commercial scale. Coffee still has a market but we are not producing enough to meet the demand.

There is a lack of initiative from the people and SMEs for funding for agriculture from the government.

We were told that government is funding agriculture and SMEs but we haven't seen the actual cash given to the people to cultivate our land into bigger commercial farming.

One of the effective means to solve the drug cultivation and trafficking in the highlands is to replace cannabis for substitute crops for commercial marketing.

Promoting sustainable development is an effective means to solve drug problems.

We have tried, in the Gembogl area, in the Simbu Province where more than 3,000 drug addicts, cultivators and traffickers give up their illegal activities in a ceremony in Gembogl district in 2018 to engage themselves in farming, eco-tourism and bio-diversity program. We encourage self help programs to sustain their living.

We involved in this rehabilitation program with the help of the Department of Primary Industry, Department of Environment and Conservation, Police, and the Kundiawa Gembogl district.

I have seen changes and youths began to appreciate life.

Kizza Marie

This is a good article that many people should consider reading. Good read!

Judy Kiap

That is the fact of what's going on right now so our government of today should rise up and do something like developing effective policies as guidelines for the young ones involving in such activities.

Leaders responsible should do something to help them if they are there really for the people.

They must know that they are chosen by the people and they are there for the people, therefore they have to do the right thing for the people of this country. Ignoring your own people is an unbearable shame.

It's about time we all join hands together,do what we can to help these ignorant ones in big or small ways and bring change to our community.

Bernard Singu Yegiora

Marijuana is a high problem.

Thank you Philip for the article.

Allyn Hicks

I agree that domestic use of marijuana is a problem but we also have an even worse one when smugglers exchange high powered weapons for it.

I was astonished to see photos of protesters in the Southern Highlands recently carrying very sophisticated high powered weapons. Where do they come from?

Jerry Singirok wrote a very incisive paper on this some years ago. The problem has worsened since.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)