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WAR AGAINST DRUGS

Commemorating the day against drug abuse, coordinated efforts are being made to eradicate the perils of addiction from Indian society writes M Amin.

WAR AGAINST DRUGS
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is the nodal Ministry for drug demand reduction. It 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 awareness. The Ministry provides community-based services for the identification, treatment and rehabilitation of addicts through voluntary organizations.

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, was enacted to curb drug abuse. Section 71 of the Act (Power of Government to establish centres for identification, treatment, etc. of addicts and for supply of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances) provides that "The Government may establish, recognize or approve as many centres as it thinks fit for identification, treatment, management, education, after-care, rehabilitation, social reintegration of addicts and for supply, subject to such conditions and in such manner as may be prescribed, by the concerned Government of any narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances to the addicts registered with the Government and to others where such supply is a medical necessity." Accordingly the Department has been supporting Integrated Rehabilitation Centre for Addicts (IRCAs) under the Scheme of Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drugs) Abuse being run by voluntary organizations.

The Ministry of Finance in consultation with all stakeholders including the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment has brought out Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Policy (NDPS Policy).

It aims to:

(a) Spell out the policy of India towards narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances; and
(b) Serve as a guide to various Ministries and organizations in the Government of India and to the State Governments as well as International Organizations, NGOs, etc.
(c) Re-assert India's commitment to combat the drug menace in a holistic manner.

The policy reaffirms the three pronged strategy for demand reduction of Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances by way of awareness building, community based intervention for motivational counselling, identification, treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts, and training of volunteers/service providers and other stakeholders with a view to build up a committed and skilled cadre. The policy also envisages that a mechanism shall be identified to assess the extent of drug abuse in the country through National Household Survey or otherwise. Such a survey shall be repeated every five years so that the change and pattern of drug abuse can be studied and the impact of various measures taken for drug supply and demand reduction can be assessed.

In a National Survey conducted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), for the year 2000-2001(report published in 2004), it was estimated that about 732 lakh persons in India were users of alcohol and drugs. Of these 87 lakh used Cannabis, 20 lakh used opiates and 625 lakh were users of Alcohol. About 26 per cent, 22 per cent and 17 per cent of users of the three types respectively were found to be dependent on/addicted to them. The survey also indicated that other drugs such as Sedatives/Hypnotics, volatile substances, hallucinogens, stimulants and pharmaceutical preparations were also abused. It revealed that most users were in their early thirties, most had not sought treatment, and very few were currently undergoing treatment. In addition, regions of high prevalence of Opiate use were Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Western Rajasthan.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment recognizes strategy for demand reduction in a three pronged path, with the following:

a) Awareness building 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.

National Consultative Committee on De-addiction and Rehabilitation (NCCDR)

A National Consultative Committee on De-addiction and Rehabilitation (NCCDR) under the chairpersonship of Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment had been constituted in July, 2008. The Committee has representation of various stakeholders including agencies dealing with supply and demand reduction. It is meant to advise the Government on issues connected with drug demand reduction, education/awareness building, de-addiction and rehabilitation of drug-addicts. So far, two meetings of NCCDR have been held.

Scheme of Assistance for Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drug) Abuse

For the purpose of drug demand reduction, the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has been implementing a Scheme of Assistance for Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drug) Abuse since 1985-86. Under this scheme, financial assistance up to 90 per cent of the approved expenditure is given to the voluntary organizations and other eligible agencies for setting up/running Integrated Rehabilitation Centre for Addicts (IRCAs). In the case of North-Eastern States, Sikkim and Jammu & Kashmir, the quantum of assistance is 95 per cent of the total admissible expenditure. The cost norms of the Scheme have been revised four times in 1994, 1999 and 2008 and 2015.

This Ministry has started an online system for processing of Grant-in-Aid to VOs/NGOs from the financial year 2014-15. At present, approximately 400 Integrated Rehabilitation Centre for Addicts (IRCAs) are being run across the country with support from this Ministry. About one lakh drug/alcohol addicts are benefitting every year under the Scheme.

The Ministry celebrates June 26 every year as International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The Govt. of India has instituted a Scheme of the National Awards for outstanding services in the field of prevention of Alcoholism & Substance (Drug) Abuse from the year 2013. The Awards were earlier conferred annually till 2014. However, the Scheme of the Award has now been revised and the Awards are now conferred biennially. The Scheme is applicable to institutions and individuals working in the field of Prevention of Drug and Alcoholism Abuse. So far, three National Awards have been successfully conducted on June 26- 2013,
2014 and 2016.

"Drug and substance abuse is a serious problem adversely affecting the social fabric of the country. Addiction to drugs changes the basic fabric of society in all its aspects. It not only affects the health of the individual, both physical as well as psychological, but also causes disruption and destabilisation of families, diminishes productivity, increases crime, spreads corruption, causes a general decimation of moral standards and values and is a drain on the economy," says Union Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot.

A National Toll-Free Helpline (1800-11-0031) has also been launched to assist the alcoholics and drug dependent persons, their family members and community.

To convey the message, a series of events will be organized for showcasing various positive activities such as the mass awareness event 'Run against Drug Abuse' at India Gate ever year. More than 4000 people participate at India Gate in the morning to spread the message: 'Think Health Not Drugs'.
M Amin

M Amin

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