International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

The annual growth rate of drug abuse in Nepal has exceeded 11 percent which is much higher than the global rate of 6 percent.

Binod Kumar Pathak

June 26, 2019

12 MIN READ

International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
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26 June is observed every year as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking since 1989.  The UN has acknowledged the day as a way to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse. In this grand endeavor, the support of all individuals, families, communities, non-profit organizations and governments are needed.

The UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) encourages all ‘Member States’ to get involved in a mass campaign to mark this day and raise awareness about the harmful effects of using (and abusing) narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances along with their illicit trade (trafficking) by using mainstream media and other social media tools. The theme of the year 2019 for the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is very compassionate one — ‘Justice and health are two sides of the same coin when it comes to addressing drug problems’. All of us know very well that fighting illicit trafficking of drugs and its abuse (through drug addiction) is not possible unless institutions of criminal justice, health, and social services across different countries of the world work hand in hand in an inclusive and accountable manner in order to handle drug-related problems. It is all about giving integrated solutions in line with the international drug control conventions, human rights obligations and the Sustainable Development Goals. As the problem of ‘Drug abuse and its illicit trafficking’ is complex and complicated so is the solution — integrated, intense and intensive.

It is not only the legal issue; it is also the moral, the social, the psychological, the physical and not to end here, of course, is the issue which relates to economics of a country and quality of future citizens who have to run and guide the family, community, institution and their own country.

Last year in 2018, the UN launched a task team to enhance coordination and deliver more comprehensive assistance to countries facing drug-related challenges. In an important message to the ministerial segment of the sixty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, held in Vienna, Austria on 14-15 March 2019, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said while opening the ‘Ministerial Segment’ of discussion, ‘Drug Addicts Need Treatment, Not Punishment‘. It indicates the sensitive nature of the issue that vast many of the countries have to deal with to a greater or lesser extent. It is not only the legal issue; it is also the moral, the social, the psychological, the physical and not to end here, of course, is the issue which relates to economics of a country and quality of future citizens who have to run and guide the family, community, institution and their own country.

Drug abuse is understood as non-medical use of prescription drugs which include narcotics and psychotropic (psychoactive) substances. Regular and compulsive use of these drugs leads to a stage of drug-addiction which has unimaginable negative effects on addict’s health — both mind and body, causing complete mental disorientation and derangement before a painful death. Opiates, opioids, morphine, cocaine, amphetamine, and heroin come under the category of narcotics which have sleep-inducing properties and must be used in prescribed doses under the strict supervision of a certified doctor.

Psychotropic substance changes functions of the human brain by altering normal day to day perception, cognition, consciousness and mood which cause maladaptive behavior in different situations of life. Examples of psychotropic substances are LSD, MDA, MDMA (ecstasy), amphetamine, methylphenidate, and others. The drugs listed here have a specific purpose to serve in curing various kinds of physiological and psychological ailments. Their use is to be strictly allowed under medical prescription or else it will be considered as ‘misuse’ of the drug. Then an undisciplined way of misusing these drugs create a state of ‘dependence’ on them leading finally to a chronic state of ‘addiction’ for a person who is now a drug addict.

The worldwide situation of drug abuse and illicit trafficking is really serious. Expansion of drug markets with the production of opium and manufacture of cocaine is at an all-time high, says the World Drug Report 2018.

Globally, drug-related deaths have shown a tremendous rise. Just at the beginning of the first 15 years of the 21st century from 2000 to 2015, deaths directly caused by the use of drugs has shown a sharp rise of 60 percent at the global level. About the three-quarters of deaths from drug addiction among the adults above 50 have been caused by intake of opioid. Roughly 6 percent (around 300 million people) of the global population aged 15-64 years fall in the category of ‘drug abusers’. The worldwide situation of drug abuse and illicit trafficking is really serious. Expansion of drug markets with the production of opium and manufacture of cocaine is at an all-time high, says the World Drug Report 2018.

The illicit trafficking of cocaine and methamphetamine are reaching new destinations beyond their usual regions and what is more challenging nowadays is that drug traffickers have gone online using all the modern communication tools to make a big haul of money. People of all ages from adolescence to old are involved in drug abuse as well as illicit trafficking even though the surveys on drug use among the general population show that young people remain higher than that among older people on frequencies of drug abuse. Most research suggests that early (12–14 years old) to late (15–17 years old) adolescence is a critical risk period because first dose of drug is tested in this age period and frequencies of intake rise up to develop ‘addiction’ in the later phase among young people aged 18 –25 years.

Cannabis is a common drug of choice for young people while drugs such as “ecstasy”, methamphetamine, cocaine, ketamine, LSD and GHB are used in high-income countries, reveals UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime). The most commonly used drugs for young people living in the streets are inhalants, which can include paint thinner, petrol, paint, correction fluid, and glue. Many street children are victims of physical and sexual abuse and their dependency on drugs becomes an unusual method to cope up with the harsh environments on the street. Early mental and behavioral health problems, poverty, lack of opportunities, isolation, disturbed family environment, lack of parental involvement and social support, negative peer influences, and poorly equipped schools are potential reasons for pushing the adolescents in drug abuse and addiction. Overall side effects of drug abuse (also called substance abuse) appear in form of the likelihood of job loss (unemployment), physical health problems, dysfunctional social relationships, suicidal tendencies, mental illness and even lower life expectancy in any stage of life. Young people suffering from poverty or trapped in other vulnerable groups, such as immigrants, may be recruited by organized crime groups and simply forced or blackmailed into working in drug cultivation, production, trafficking, and local-level dealing.

How to deal with such a dangerous situation of drug abuse and illicit trafficking? UN Secretary-General António Guterres shares his own experience during the ministerial segment of Vienna meeting of Commission on Narcotic Drugs, held in March 2019, ‘Let me tell you about my experience as Prime Minister of Portugal two decades ago.  The country was reeling from drug abuse. We took on the drug traffickers, ensuring law enforcement officers got the information and equipment they needed. At the same time, the Government assumed its responsibilities for prevention and treatment, rooted in the conviction that drug addicts are victims who need treatment rather than punishment. This policy worked.  The seizure of drugs went up. Drug consumption went down significantly. Today, Portugal has one of Europe’s lowest death rates from drug use.’ So, the policy of António Guterres — ‘Never spare the drug traffickers but always care the drug abusers’ worked well for Portugal when he was the Prime Minister there. There is no question the policy will fail and will not work for the whole world this time when he is the UN Chief himself.

The annual growth rate of drug abuse in Nepal has exceeded 11 percent which is much higher than the global rate of 6 percent.

Asia particularly South and south-east regions need special mention here in connection with both drug abuse and illicit trafficking of illegal substance. Myanmar just in the backyard of Nepal continued to have the world’s second largest area under illicit opium poppy cultivation. Afghanistan and Pakistan in South Asia have also shown no decline in drug trafficking and illegal opium cultivation. According to UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), opiates produced in Myanmar are mostly trafficked to China and Thailand. Myanmar also leads in ‘Heroin trafficking’ to Oceania (mostly Australia). According to the Narcotics Control Bureau, the number of drug-related offenses is higher than any other heinous crime in Nepal.

And it is increasing at an alarming rate. Nepal is being used as a transit country by international drug smugglers to traffic the drugs to India and other South Asian and South-East Asian countries. Cocaine and Heroin arrive in Nepal from as far as Latin American countries such as Brazil and Peru for illicit trafficking. The Nepal Police have arrested and initiated legal action against as many as 25,146 persons for their involvement in smuggling and peddling drugs over a period of six years (2011-2018) across the country. Foreigners involved in the illicit trafficking were also arrested. Nepal Police have stepped up vigil on the production, possession, storage, transportation, and consumption of illicit drugs. The Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration has issued a circular to all 753 local levels for setting up an anti-drug cell in each school for raising awareness against the harmful effects of drug abuse among children and youths. The annual growth rate of drug abuse in Nepal has exceeded 11 percent which is much higher than the global rate of 6 percent.

“There are no easy solutions. But we can chart a better path to counter the world drug problem,” says the UN Chief António Guterres, “I urge countries to advance prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and reintegration services; ensure access to controlled medicines while preventing diversion and abuse; promote alternatives to illicit drug cultivation; and stop trafficking and organized crime – all of which would make an immense contribution to our work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

 

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