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Special Content


International Day Against Drug Abuse and
Illicit Trafficking, 26th June :
Time to Come Together to Tackle the Menace 

Vishnupriya Pandey

“Drugs lead a person to a blind path of destruction. There is nothing left in its trail but devastation. This is a topic of great concern and demands total attention” - Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Drug abuse is one of the most serious health problems faced by the world today. It is also a psycho-social evil that spawns antisocial behavior such as stealing, crime and violence besides social stigma, thus, destroying the vitals of the society and leading to its overall downfall. Drug abuse adversely affects the economic growth of a country by generating un-accounted money in large quantity that are often used to fund terror and anti national activities and therefore it poses a serious threat to the national security. To raise awareness about this major problem, June 26th is celebrated every year as International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. In December, 1987 the United Nations decided to observe this day to sensitize the people in general and the youth in particular, to the menace of drugs. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his monthly “Mann Ki Baat” on All India Radio, recently said that the drug menace brings about the three D’s, related to three vices - Darkness, Destruction and Devastation. He said, drug abuse does not only destroy the person involved, but his entire family, the society and the nation at large. Terming drug abuse as a matter of great concern he called for an immediate attention.
Definition of Drug Abuse:
World Health Organisation defines Drug Abuse as the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Psychoactive substance use can lead to dependence syndrome - a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance use and that typically include a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state. The world body defines drug addiction as the repeated use of a psycho-active substance, to the extent that the user (referred to as an addict) is periodically or chronically intoxicated, shows a compulsion to take the preferred substance (or substances), has great difficulty in voluntarily ceasing or modifying substance use, and exhibits determination to obtain psychoactive substances by almost any means. Symptoms of addiction include loss of appetite and weight, loss of interest in day to day work, sweating, reddening of eyes, nausea or vomiting and body pain, drowsiness or sleeplessness and passivity, acute anxiety, depression, mood swings among others.
About 230 million people across the globe use an illegal drug such as cocaine, cannabis, hallucinogens, opiates and sedative hypnotics at least once a year. This represents about 1 in 20 persons between the ages of 15 and 64. Approximately 1 in 40 people in the same age group use drugs at least once a month, and about 27 million people use drugs in a manner that exposes them to very severe health problems. The U.N. estimates that illicit drug use causes over 2 lakh deaths globally, most of them being in their mid 30’s. Thus, illicit drug use is largely a youth phenomenon in today’s world which increases during the adolescence and reaches its peak among persons aged 18-25.
According to a survey by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India and United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) the country has more than 70 million drug addicts and different drugs are prevalent in different states of the country. According to the study, Rajasthan has the highest proportion of opium users, followed by Haryana whereas over 43 per cent heroin users are there in Uttar Pradesh. As per official data tabled before the Rajya Sabha, our country records about 10 suicides daily due to drug or alcohol addiction. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 3,647 such suicide cases in the country in 2014. Maharashtra reported the highest such cases, followed by Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
India accounts for 1.62% of the world’s seizures of illegal drugs. Proximity to the largest producers of heroin and hashish - the Golden Triangle (Southeast Asia) and Golden Crescent (Afghanistan - Pakistan & Iran) is one of the main reasons for drug trafficking in India making its border vulnerable. Additionally, Nepal is a traditional source of cannabis. India is both a destination and a transit route for drug traffickers in these regions. As a consequence of smuggling of narcotic drugs across the border, our states bordering with neighbouring countries in Northeast, North and Western parts have been affected with narco - terrorism - a term to describe trafficking of narcotics by terrorist groups as a quid pro quo for the funds which are utilized to create terror in the form of assassination, extortion, hijacking, bombing, kidnapping and the general disruption of the government to divert attention from illicit drug operations.
Government of India initiatives against drug abuse
Article 47 of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of India directs state to take necessary actions against illicit drug use. It says, “Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health – The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.”
India is a party to the three United Nations drug conventions – the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961 Convention), the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971 Convention) and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988 Convention). To tackle the problem of illegal drugs, the Parliament passed Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 as a comprehensive legislation on narcotics, providing for stringent and long term prison sentences and heavy fines for offenders. This act replaced the Opium Acts and the Dangerous Drugs Act. Similarly, the parliament also passed the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988.
The Government of India addresses the problem of drug use through multi pronged strategy. There are enforcement agencies like Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB), Narcotics Control Division, Department of Central excise & customs, revenue intelligence, para-military and armed forces tasked to tackle the illegal drugs supply whereas Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has the responsibilities like creating awareness, educating people about the ill effects of drug abuse, its identification and rehabilitation. It is the nodal ministry for drug demand reduction that coordinates and monitors all aspects of drug abuse prevention which include assessment of the extent of the problem, preventive action, treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, dissemination of information and public education. The Ministry provides community-based services for the identification, treatment and rehabilitation of addicts through voluntary organizations. It supports activities of non-governmental organisations, working in the areas of prevention of addiction and rehabilitation of addicts. It also funds Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), etc. The strategy of the Ministry for demand reduction is three pronged:
a)            Awareness Generation and educating people about ill effects of drug abuse.
b)            Community based intervention for motivational counselling, identification, treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts, and
c)            Training of volunteers/service providers and other stakeholders with a view to build up a committed and skilled cadre.
The Ministry has been implementing the Scheme of Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drug) Abuse since 1985-86. The scheme stresses on developing culture-specific models for the prevention of addiction and treatment and rehabilitation of addicts. Awareness generation programmes are taken every year by the ministry for disseminating information, education and communication (IEC) materials. Programs like exhibitions and publishing newsletters and journals are organized in schools and community. Presently, about 350 to 400 Integrated Rehabilitation Centres for Addicts (IRCAs) are functioning with the support of the Ministry in the country. De-addiction camps are organized regularly to reach out to uncovered areas. The Ministry has set up a National Centre for Drug Abuse Prevention in the National Institute of Social Defence for capacity building and training of NGOs running De-addiction centres. Besides, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also supports 122 de-addiction centres in District Hospitals.
In 2004, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime jointly released the National Survey on the Extent, Pattern and Trends of Drug Abuse in India. The major highlights of the survey were:
*Alcohol, cannabis and opiates are the major substances of abuse in India.
*Prevalence of drug abuse among males the general population is significant.
*Drug abuse among women exists.
*Hazards and burden on women due to drug abuse is significant.
*Number of dependent users ‘not in treatment’ is significant.
*Pockets of high use exist.
*Drug abuse as an exclusively urban phenomenon is a myth.
*IDUs and other high risk behaviours are seen both in rural and urban areas.
*Drug use results in a significant health, psychological and social burden.
*Significant gap in service delivery
It also raised challenges before the government to tackle the problem. Some of them were:
*Absolute number of potential treatment seekers (‘volume of work’) is challenging.
*Low enrollment in treatment and underutilization of existing services.
*Mismatch between pockets of high use (from NHS/DAMS) and availability of treatment centres.
*Long duration of drug use before seeking treatment.
*Multiple high-risk behaviours
* Injecting Drug Use (IDU)
The major recommendations by the study were:
*Attract drug users to treatment.
*Scale up peer-led interventions, community based services
*Develop programmes for vulnerable groups like youth, street children, women, prisons, etc.
*Enhance skills of care providers. Improve service delivery.
*Periodic collection of data to monitor progress (multiple methods, parameters and sites).
*Continuation of DAMS through training of NGOs.
*Enhance advocacy (‘Drugs: Treatment Works’).
*Funding for evidence-based interventions.
A national survey is again being conducted by the Ministry to ascertain the number of people in the country affected by drug abuse. The whole results of the survey, undertaken by the national drug dependence treatment centre of All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences, are likely by 2018. It has recently launched a national toll free helpline number - 1800-11-0031 to assist drug abuse victims in successful rehabilitation. The newly launched helpline provides assistance six days a week between 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 pm. The Government has also constituted a joint committee comprising four central ministries, including Home Affairs, Health, Finance and Social Justice & Empowerment, to curb the menace of drug smuggling into India, prevalent mostly in the states along international borders.
The Ministry has prepared a draft of the National Policy for Drug Demand Reduction which, inter alia, involves States Governments/ Union Territories, Ministries and other stakeholders.
Some of its key features are :
*Education & Awareness Building at all levels.
*Treatment and Rehabilitation (whole person recovery).
*Networking of Service Providers.
*Capacity Building & Training of service providers in the field of drug with a view to build up skilled manpower.
*Data Collection and Management.
*Inter-Sectoral Collaboration and International Cooperation.
The policy also proposes a system of Accreditation of de-addiction Centres in order to standardize the treatment/ facilities provided in coordination with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and other stakeholders.
As the world prepares to celebrate International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26th June with conscious fervor to eradicate the menace which is a major deterrent to humanity and a poison to the well-being of the youth in particular, the young generation should pledge to keep themselves away from this psycho- socio medical problem. They should follow the words of Swami Vivekanad, “Take a thought, make it your life. Ponder on it and dream about it. Make it an integral part of your dreams. Make it a part of your mind, brain, veins and each and every part of your body and forget everything else”. The combined effort of Government, society and the youth as a whole can enable a greater dissemination of the cause of Anti Drug Abuse.
The author is Research Scholar in the Department of Social Work, Jamia Millia Islamia. Views expressed are personal. The email address is vishnupriyapandey@gmail.com