‘Redefine strategies to fight substance abuse in Nagaland’
Kohima, Aug. 4 (EMN): Chief Secretary Temjen Toy on Tuesday called for revival of efforts towards fighting substance abuse in the state.
He was delivering a keynote address during a panel discussion on ‘better knowledge for better care’ which was virtually hosted by SLCA, Kripa Foundation Nagaland.
Toy stated that efforts have been made for years to tackle the problem as many lives were lost. “It is our bounden duty to ensure that no more lives are lost,” he said.
The chief secretary cited the efforts made by a group of people from Mon district to wipe out the menace, stating that it was commendable and it had ‘paid off’. He added that the demand and supply had fallen drastically.
The official also stressed on the need to adapt with times and adopt new strategies in order to deal with the problem confronting the state.
According to him, there are reports that owing to the lockdown and restrictions, drug users are unable to avail drugs of their choice and many of them are coming forward to register themselves for oral substitutions therapy.
Toy said faith-based organisations have a key role to play in addressing the menace of substance abuse. “It is important that life skills and the realities of today’s problems are addressed so that our young people are kept within the remedial limits,” he said.
The Nagaland State Substance Abuse Policy, 2016 needs to be implemented, he stated, and further called for the nodal departments and NGOs to ‘look at it, ensure that it is implemented and amend it, if found necessary’.
One of the panellists, Dr. Atul Ambekar, professor of Psychiatric NDDTC, AIIMS, New Delhi, maintained that Nagaland being located in the known heroin trafficking route pose a great challenge; and stated that ‘strategies need to be redefined’.
He highlighted that Nagaland has 8.1% (current use) of alcohol with 1.7% ‘dependence’ and 2.9% ‘use disorders’ on an average; whereas India has 14.6% (current use) with 2.1%‘dependence’ and 5.2% ‘use disorders.’
He added that Nagaland has 4.6% ‘current use’ of cannabis, 0.4% ‘dependence’, 1.1% ‘use disorders’ when India has 2.8% ‘current use’, 0.2% ‘dependence’ and 0.7% ‘use disorders’ on an average.
The professor maintained that Nagaland is ranked among the top 5 in the country in opioid ‘use disorders’. He also stated that it was ranked 10th among states with largest number of ‘people who injects’ in 2018 with estimated number of thirty-four thousand.
Ambekar asserted the need for massive investment, not only in information and awareness, but also for reduction of stigma so as to ensure increase in treatment, seeking assistance from stakeholders and also pave way for harm reduction programmes.
Time to decriminalise
Abou Mere, the regional director (Northeast) of Kripa Foundation, Nagaland, speaking on the impact of drug use, said, “Drug use is not much of a problem but drug dependency and drug disorder is the problem.”
He stated that due to criminalisation of drug use under section 27 of NDPS Act, 1985 (that penalises drug use and trafficking), many who use drugs were expelled from schools.
Many became dependent on drugs and had drug disorders, resulting in school dropouts. It also caused many health complications that lead to drug-overdose, premature death and other problems, he said.
‘It is high time that we decriminalise drug use to do away with stigma, so that they (users) may seek and avail facilities,’ he said.
Mere also stressed on the need to amend the drug policy and stated it would help in tackling the adverse impact of drug use in the state.
Another panellist, Dr. Bernice, the joint director of Nsacs, speaking on the state’s intervention on people living with HIV and Aids who use drugs, stated the need for creating an enabling environment.
She recommended the need to strengthen the support of society for oral drug users and people dependent on substance. She also asserted the need for strengthening primary intervention and awareness programmes, and to establish treatment centres for those in need.