India/Nagaland: ‘Culture of acceptance responsible for substance abuse’

By Menuse-O Max Khieya, first published in the Eastern Mirror Nagaland on Sunday, March 14, 2021

Sechü-Zubza, March 14 (EMN): The additional deputy commissioner of Kohima, N Bhavani Sri, has expressed concern over the widespread abuse of substances such as alcohol and drugs due to the ‘culture of acceptance’ and called upon to devise a “role models” to stop the menace in the society.

Sri was speaking at a seminar on substance abuse and treatment organised by the district administration and district welfare office in collaboration with Youth Mission under Nasha Mukt Bharat Campaign Committee at Sechü-Zubza in Kohima on March 13.

“Nagaland despite being declared a dry state, the usage of alcohol and drugs has become common in the state,” she said, adding that the root cause was “social acceptance”. Asserting that usage of those drugs and alcohol have become a ‘culture’ even in colleges and schools, she said that children are also exposed to the substances from their parents who take such banned intoxicants.

“We are casually using it (substance) but we are sponsoring something which is causing a very big human problem at the background,” Sri said. The official also shared that no matter how much one tries to control those substance abusers, ‘it goes out of hand’.

Citing instances of individuals indulging in alcohol and drugs owing to family problems, desperation or loneliness, she underscored the importance of faith, ‘which can fight such mentality’.  She, therefore, urged the faith-based organisations to provide moral support to substance abusers .

Sharing how recovering substance abusers are being alienated, Sri reminded to bring them back to the society after de-addiction as part of rehabilitation for them.

“It is important to have them back in the society where they have roles to play,” she said, adding that creating awareness, giving counselling or providing them jobs would help them overcome their addiction.

Mentioning that most people also become addicted to substances because of family issues, she emphasised that family and individuals also have  a role in preventing or reducing their addiction. “Every individual has to take ownership and commitment to fight this problem,” she appealed.

“Kohima, Dimapur and Mon are the three districts which are susceptible to drugs and alcohol,” Sri noted adding that illegal substances which are banned are easily available in these areas.

She also shared how India is in the transit location of heroin and opium production and transmission route which is the gateway for human trafficking and all drug related issues.

Vitoshe K Sumi, sub-divisional police officer (South), Kohima, while dwelling on the role of law enforcement on illicit drugs and alcohol asserted that with the prevailing situation, “the proclamation of being an alcohol-free zone in Nagaland has become a ‘mockery’ though the state was declared a dry state as per the Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act, 1989”.

However, he stated that there is a contradiction to the tag of being a dry state seeing the ‘ground reality’ in the state, adding that ‘so long as there is consumption, there will be demand and supply for the production’.

He also stated that the issue of alcohol has become “very complicated” despite the law enforcing agencies “doing all possible ways” to tackle it. The officer appealed to the NGOs not to ‘wash their hands and leave it to the government alone to fight the menace’. He rather appealed to the civil society organisations to extend a helping hand to the law keepers mentioning that “concerted efforts” are required to control the issue.

He also stated that Nagaland is the transit point for drug suppliers as hundreds of vehicles cross the state daily on their way to other neighbouring states and added that many people including the police personnel “fall in the trap of drugs”. Despite the free movement of drugs, he also shared how police found it “humanly impossible” to check every truck thoroughly.

The officer informed how drugs like opium and illegal tablets are regularly being seized from trucks and other vehicles while crossing districts. He also shared how tons of coughing syrups with fake licence from pharmacies are being seized from vehicles after thorough investigation.

Stating that Kohima, Dimapur and Mon being the main transit areas of drugs, he claimed that high volumes of such substances are being transported to other states through those districts. Sumi, therefore, stressed upon the need to create awareness in the families, localities, villages and cities by holding campaigns to do away with ill-effects of drugs in the society.

16 crore consume alcohol, 3.1 crore on cannabis and 2.26 crore use opioids

Akali Sema, DWO of Social Welfare department, while stating that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is the nodal ministry for drug demand reduction, informed that to assess the magnitude of the problem of substance use in the country, the ministry has done a comprehensive national survey on extent and pattern of substance use to ascertain the proportion of population using various substance and those affected by substance use disorders.

As per the survey report, alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used by Indians followed by cannabis and opioids, she informed. According to the survey, about 16 crore persons in the country consume alcohol, 3.1 crore individuals use cannabis products and 2.26 crore use opioids.

Sema apprised that the ministry has also formulated a National Action Plan for Drug

Demand Reduction (NAPDDR), an umbrella scheme which includes components for preventive education and awareness generation, capacity building, treatment and rehabilitation, setting quality standards, focussed intervention in vulnerable areas, skill development, vocational training and livelihood support of ex-drug addicts, survey, studies, evaluation and research.

She informed that projects and schemes are funded for implementation and initiatives towards the drug demand reduction in the country are carried out through the government of India, state/UT governments, implementing agencies like NGOs, Trust and autonomous organisations, technical forums, hospitals, and prison administrations, etc.

She said for the year 2020-21, the ministry had formulated an annual action plan ‘Nasha Mukt Bharat’ to be implemented in 273 districts, which have been identified as most vulnerable in terms of usage of drugs based in the inputs received from Narcotics Control Bureau and the findings of the comprehensive national survey done by the ministry.

Nasha Mukt Bharat campaign is a three pronged attack combining the supply of curb by Narcotics Control Bureau, outreach and awareness and demand reduction efforts by the Ministry and treatments through the Health department.

Other resource persons such as Dr.Viketoulie Pienyu, MO from Mental Health Institute; Dr. R Rose, medical officer from Youth Mission; Veto Doulo, a former drug addict; Rev. Dr. Thüpuo Nyekha, president of Youth Mission; and Abeinuo Jasmine Ashao, EAC Kohima; and Joseph, project director of Youth Mission, spoke at the seminar.

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