Effective strategies to combat drug abuse

Narcotics abuse and trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon. Almost all countries, including India, are affected by the narcotics problem as source regions, transit regions or as markets for narcotic drugs.

The spread and entrenchment of drug abuse has led to a detrimental impact on youth in India. Increase in violence and crime is the direct impact of drug abuse. Addicts resort to crime to pay for their drugs. 

Drugs remove inhibition and impair judgement, egging one to commit offences. Incidents of eve teasing, group clashes, assault and impulsive murders increase with drug abuse. Apart from affecting financial stability, addiction increases conflicts and causes untold emotional pain for every member of the family. 

With most drug users being in the productive age group of 18-35 years, the loss in terms of human potential is incalculable. The damage to the physical, psychological, moral and intellectual growth of youth is very high. Peddlers generally target students from high schools and colleges who are prone to suffer from depression.

To effectively prevent and combat the menace of drug abuse, the Centre and state governments have taken measures. The broad legislative policy in the matter is contained in the three Central Acts — Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988.

Although government agencies enforce the above laws, still illegal sale and consumption of narcotic drugs is found in every city and town of the country. The following measures need to be initiated to completely eliminate drug abuse and save the youth from degeneration:

1) Effective coordination among enforcement agencies: Coordination in illicit drug control is the function of the Narcotics Control Bureau, Department of Revenue. The licensing functions for medicinal and scientific purposes are performed by narcotics commissioner at the Centre and drug controllers in the states. 

The state police organisations, the Narcotics Control Bureau and other central police organisations have enforcement powers under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and PIT–NDPS Act 1988. The health treatment and rehabilitation of addicts are the responsibility of Department of Health and Family Welfare of the states. Meaningful interaction between these agencies would help in better enforcement of anti-drug abuse laws.

2) Sharing of intelligence: Many state and central agencies work in isolation. The state police generally catch distributors and peddlers, whereas central agencies focus on apprehending big time smugglers. There is an urgent need to develop a system for sharing of information which would help the enforcement agencies connect the distributors to source of supply. 

3) Focus on source of supply: Generally, investigation officers obtain information and catch peddlers and distributors of illegal and narcotic drugs. Many times they fail to locate the source of supply. The link between the distributor, transporter and supplier is missing most of the time. The network of narcotic smugglers is very strong and dangerous. Exposing a drug traffic network requires years of planning, intelligence collection and sustained efforts to bust the network. Enforcement agencies should focus mainly on tracking the network deeply and prosecuting producers and suppliers.

4) Special skills, dedicated units: Investigation of illegal drug trafficking is a specialised task. There is a need to develop special skills within state police organisations dealing with drugs. Officers must be trained on investigation techniques to track organised crime syndicates. They need to be briefed on the latest case laws so that they can investigate as per the requirement of evidences for conviction. 

5) Enhancement of punishment under Illegal Drug Control Act: Punishments under NDPS and other laws should be commensurate with the quantity of contraband recovered. The law should distinguish between trafficking of drugs done by smugglers and that by small-time sellers who are generally street peddlers. Smugglers, suppliers and members of drug syndicates should be awarded enhanced punishments. 

6) Creating awareness among citizens: Many times, students and young people may not be aware of the harmful effects of illicit drugs. Youth, especially, suffer from insecurity and depression and fall prey to drug peddlers. In order to create awareness, police organisations should join hands with Education Department, Health and Family Welfare Department and other agencies to educate students and youngsters through lectures, films and through providing literature about harmful effects of drug abuse. Effective co-ordination with Non-Government Organisations will also help in creating awareness among youth.

7) Establishment of de-addiction centres and camps: There are many NGOs which run de-addiction camps where people are helped to come out of drug addiction. Some of these centres are very expensive. Therefore, the government agencies can establish district wise de-addiction centres and camps to help the affected youth. Rehabilitation and post care counselling can save many lives.

The above strategies are only illustrative in nature. Illicit drug trafficking is a crime which affects not only an individual but has ramifications across societies. It has potential to destroy an entire generation. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every section of society to help enforcement agencies of the government to root out this menace.

(The writer is Additional Director General of Police (Crime and Technical Services), Bengaluru)

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