A batch of homemade alcohol from Libya has killed 79 people, according to the latest report from Colonel Mahmoud al-Sharif, Tripoli’s security chief. Authorities are attempting to track down who developed the poisonous brew, and how exactly it came to be fatal. Many who did not die are suffering from blindness, kidney failures, and sometimes comas.
Alcohol is illegal in Libya, and so those who are still interested in obtaining the substance must do so through illegal channels. Sometimes alcohol in Libya is smuggled in from other countries, but often is brewed by individuals on their own land. Without a legalized system for making and distributing alcohol, there is no government oversight as to what goes into the bottles, or as to who the customers are.
Prohibition often disproportionately affects the poorest of a society. Substances that are addictive have the strongest grip on those without the funds to check themselves into a good rehab clinic. Often an addiction can result in a person’s entire income being spent on substance abuse. A radical experiment by the Portuguese over ten years ago shows that when drug use and possession is decriminalized and treated as a public health problem, rather than as a crime deserving of imprisonment, nearly every single negative statistic associated with addiction is reduced. Rates of drug use, addiction, overdose, and many more saw significant drops. Perhaps Libya could use this tragedy as an impetus to address its dangerous prohibition laws for the betterment of its citizens.
– Jake Simon