Alarming rate of drug addiction among youths

[Junroi Mamai]

According to a government report, Arunachal has emerged as the top among illegal opium producers in the country given its geographical closeness to the golden triangle of Myanmar, Laos PDR and Thailand infamous for opium and heroin production and trafficking. Large tracts of land are being cultivated in various parts of the state, especially in Changlang, Longding, Upper Siang and Tirap districts.
A 2014 detailed report shared by the Narcotics Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies with the Union Home Ministry has clearly underlined the fact that the drug menace may put under threat the very existence of the tribal population of the state.
Among the worst affected by the drug menace is Changlang district where its rampant abuse threatens to damage a whole generation of youths if not checked on time. The rate at which drug abuse among youths of Changlang district has increased in the last decade is quite alarming.
Cases relating to drug offences involving juveniles are numerous and maximum number of cases registered in the police stations of the whole district speaks about the possession and abuse of LSD substances by teenagers. It is an alarming situation and needs to be tackled sensitively, as legal actions alone could not solve the problem. The Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), 1985 is strictly being implemented in the district but it has failed to curb addiction, especially among the youths.
The issue is multifaceted, having aspects of psychology, health, education, social and economic dimensions, which legislators and administrators of the state must begin to realize and address on priority. It will be pointless to think of the district’s development policies and programmes when most of its youths are struggling with drug addiction. It is high time the issue is addressed; simply prosecuting the youths will not affect and change them fundamentally. Getting them behind bars is a short-term solution to this perennial problem because after remaining a couple of months inside the jail every addict relapses and things remain as it is.
Education, social and economic security is what is needed most for the strayed youths at these changing times.
Currently, the district faces lack of educational infrastructure in the primary and middle school level. According to Changlang DDSE, over 700 teachers are needed for every level of schooling. There is absence of proper counselling for teenagers, besides avenues for income and other allied activities to engage the youth.
Further, locals have no access to government treatment and de-addiction centres, and they have to rely upon Assam-based detox rehabilitation centres. Also, government hospitals do not have improved medication facilities and therapies, like methadone and buprenorphine which are expensive and cannot be afforded by the locals.
Evidently, it is simply not enough to hold massive awareness programmes against drug abuse, what people need is the concerted efforts of the administrators, legislators and the locals to combat this scourge.