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‘Growing trend of illicit drugs among people is more harmful than Coronavirus’

The growing trend of illicit drugs among people, particularly youth, is a major issue in Pakistan and its prevention and protection is more important than Coronavirus, said Sudus Sohail – a Karachi based Clinical Psychologist.

Over 7.6 million people in the country are addicted to different drugs; of which an estimated 80 percent youth is using narcotics while its use in women and children is also growing, Sohail deplored.

There is a dire need to understand why our people are using narcotics and what are our expectations from our youth?, she emphasized, adding that it is very important to know not only for the betterment of our society but for the state as well, because it is an issue of public health.

Addiction to wealth and power is very dangerous for human beings, said Dr Muhammad Imran – a mental health psychologist. Dr Imran said that special attention should be paid to curb the use of drugs among the youth in educational institutions, adding that this issue should be discussed in the form of groups.

It will be necessary to do so because if a person in the society becomes addicted to the use of drugs due to psychological problems, then 60 percent other people are attracted towards the use of drugs, he added.

Sundus Sohail further said that drug use in 70 percent of educational institutions in Punjab is a matter of great concern which needs to be addressed as people from all walks of life are now addicted to drugs due to lack of effective action to curb the growing use of drugs.

“We need to strengthen our family system to curb the growing use of drugs,” Sohail added.

The clinical psychologist said that it is important for parents to keep a close eye on their children’s activities and not to be negligent in this regard; elders of the family should discuss the problems of youths at home and guide them to solutions.

This is how public representatives eradicate illicit drugs Former Narcotics Control Minister and current Chairperson of the Parliamentary Special Committee on Kashmir Shehryar Khan Afridi, in December, 2018, had indicated that 75 percent of female and 45 percent of male students were addicted to drugs such as crystal meth in Islamabad’s institutions. His statement drew a strong public criticism not only against him but against all stakeholders responsible for eliminating this menace from the society.

During that debate many infuriated by the ‘corrupt system’ didn’t hesitate raising a finger at the Ministry of Narcotics Control and its sub-department [ANF] for their failure to curb the menace of drugs from the country. The former Narcotics minister had made this statement while referring to a survey report findings conducted by an Islamabad-based think tank.

However, he [Afridi] instead of arranging a survey to get accurate data about illicit-drug use in the country continued his efforts against this social evil by using verbal rhetoric.

On January 17, 2019, Afridi shared a link of a news report titled “Islamabad’s Drug Addictions” through his twitter handle and responded to his critics saying  that “critics of my stats may please look into the Express Tribune of today.

Few lines can shake you to the core. Saving life is like saving mankind. Lets raise above from personal difference and vanguard our future generation from the evil of drugs. IA won’t spare drug barons”.

Similarly, on January 19, 2019, he posted another tweet stating that “Advocacy has been started to protect our generation with IG Islamabad and Ch Faisal for an awareness session against drugs while we use iron hands against drug barons. We are using soft methods of awareness for youth and parents. Youth is our vital asset and beyond differences let’s unite for them”.

Meanwhile, two years have passed since the issue made the lines of the media and drew attention towards the graveness of the drug use situation among youth  but no drug survey could be managed to collect the actual figure of drug-users in Pakistan in general and Islamabad in particular.

Despite the devolution of power to provinces, after the 18th Amendment Bill passed by the National Assembly in 2010, no provincial government could manage a drug survey.

It is to mention here that Pakistan is signatory of various international accords against illicit drugs and these accords declare the menace a global health problem but in Pakistan, drug problem is still taken as a social issue with least on priority.

A Baluchistan-based philanthropist Dr Ramzan when asked for the state’s institutions seriousness towards the eradication of drug menace from society said during three years of his volunteer services, a minister or two visited his rehab centre and also assured their support and facilitation but their facilitation remained restricted to verbal rhetoric’s as they never turned back. He said the drug abuse situation in border areas with Afghanistan was much alarming as compared to other parts of the province, adding that lack of public representatives support added to troubles.

It is to mention here that an estimated 9,000 tons drug was being smuggled from Afghanistan via Balochistan, of which 4,000 tons consumed in Pakistan.

The number of drug users in the country is on the rise but there is no change in our attention and efforts toward eradication of this menace, said Farman Turi, director PsychAid Islamabad.

No Fresh Data Available on Drug Use


According to the documents received by this correspondent under the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017, the concerned authorities lack fresh data and their entire future planning to curb the menace of drugs from this country is based on the last drug survey, which was conducted by UNODC in 2012.

As per that drug survey, approximately 6 percent of the population [6.7 million people] was using controlled substances in 2012. It further states that 4.25 million people are thought to be suffering from drug use disorders and drug dependence. The number of male drug dependents is 5.2 million while 1.5 women were suffering drug addiction.

In provinces wise tallies, Punjab is on the top with 2.9 million drug users, Sindh 1.7 million, KP 1.6 million and Baluchistan at the bottom with 0.28 million drugs dependents.

The document further reveals that around 4 million people were victims of cannabis, one million of Opiates, 0.01 million of stimulants, 1.6 million of non-medical use of prescription drugs and 350,000 were using solvents in 2013.

A senior officer in Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) HQs, when asked, held lack of funds responsible for the delay in drug survey. He said that they were in dialogue with the UNODC for funds and other relevant agencies for other facilitations but their plan could not be materialized for the past few years.

A senior bureaucrat in the Ministry of Narcotics on condition of anonymity said that as per international standards, the concerned institutions are obliged to conduct drug survey after every two to three years in order to develop an effective strategy for eradicating narcotics from the country but due to missing resources the ministry is not able to conduct survey for the last few years.

The UNODC 2014 World Drug Report confirmed that the prevalence of opiate use in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan was among the highest globally, and in Pakistan, had risen from 4.5 million in 2013.

The Drug Act of 1976 regulates the sale, manufacture, storage and distribution of such drugs in Pakistan and prohibits the sale of certain drugs without a prescription.

It is to mention here that the drug survey was supposed to be conducted in June  2019 but could not be conducted so far.

Pakistan’s Vulnerability Necessitate Research

Pakistan’s geographical location next to Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of illicit opium, places it in a vulnerable position in terms of drug trafficking as well as drug abuse. Patterns of illicit drug production, distribution and abuse change as a result of social, economic and political developments and such changes underscore the necessity of analysis and research on drug trends as a crucial step in terms of policy making and drug interdiction efforts.

However, the necessity of analysis and research on drug trends may have different meanings for our state representatives and anti-narcotic managers.



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