ISLAMABAD: Narcotics circulate in the blood of millions and the number has only been increasing for various socio-economic problems, failure of the enforcement agencies in curbing the trafficking and dearth of treatment and rehabilitation centres in the country.
Drug smugglers run their rings unhindered due to ineffective anti-narcotics strategy, the poor criminal justice system, and lack of awareness.
Worryingly, there is an increase in the number of injection drug users which correspondingly increases the prevalence of infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and C.
The high prevalence of HIV mainly among injection drug users have contributed to the increase in the epidemic. Health officials say that the majority of cases go unreported due to social taboos and fears of discrimination.
The use of ecstasy, glue and petrol sniffing, is spreading among the youth in educational institutes.
And the border population is most affected due to easy access to drugs.
The illegal drug trade costs the country Rs144 million annually.
The drug traffickers are now making educational institutes their main targets. They are selling illicit drugs to the students especially the affluent class with impunity.
According to a survey, done in 2013, women were more likely to misuse tranquilizers and sedatives, as well as amphetamines, but less likely to receive treatment.
“Girls are now using more drugs than boys,” Dr Muhammad Zaman, Director, Sociology Department, Quaid-i-Azam University, said expressing concern at the increasing influence of drug mafias in educational institutes.
And due to the social stigma attached to addiction, girls are less likely to seek help too, he added.
Zaman suggested that engaging youth in extra-circular activities could help curb discourage drug abuse among them.
A teacher, requesting anonymity, said that the drug mafia had such influence over educational institutes that teachers could lose their jobs or lives if they dared to complain.
Treatment and rehabilitation
There are 6.7 million drug users in Pakistan. Although there are few rehabilitation centres, there is no proper mechanism at the state level to register drug users and rehabilitate them.
There are only 96 structured and 34 low threshold services and treatment centres run by the government, NGOs, and private sectors which can only accommodate 200,000 people.
Provinces also paint an abysmal picture as Punjab has only 31 treatment centres, Sindh 27, KPK 16, Baluchistan 10, and Islamabad and Rawalpindi 12.
However, Azad Kashmir and Fata have no drug treatment centres, where more people are vulnerable to drugs due to the porous borders.
“The discriminatory approach of society and inadequate treatment and rehabilitation facilities lead to increase in the number of drug addicts,” Farman Ali Turi says, who established PsychAid, a rehabilitation centre, in Islamabad in 2015 to help people with substance abuse disorders.
“To address this problem, a proper mechanism is necessary,” he suggested.
PsychAid also accommodates patients who were previously on the waiting list of another Islamabad-based Model Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre.
Turi explained that the centres were excellent facilities for opiate users, who could not afford the treatment, but volunteers now run them.
However, an official from the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) requesting not to be named, said that the rehabilitation centres in Islamabad, Quetta, and other areas were operating under the supervision of the ANF.
He said that the centres had been closed because the staff was working on contract basis. He, however, said that the centres would soon be reopened with permanent staff.
He said that two 100-bed hospitals were being constructed in Karachi and Peshawar for drug users.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2016.