Pakistan has a drug problem that many only acknowledge grudgingly. We see drug-users lying on pavements injecting contaminated needles into their bodies but quickly turn the other way instead of thinking deeply about this all-pervasive menace. Drug use is very much a matter of public interest as this is a problem prevalent among all strata of society, has destroyed individuals and families, and poses a grave danger to our younger generation. Consequently, it is clear that drug use has to be addressed with critical attention being directed towards the mental health and well-being of citizens. This is clearly not the case in Pakistan as a recent report has revealed that there are 6.7 million drug users in the country, and at the same time, there are very few rehabilitation centres — enough to accommodate only three per cent of that number — which means the problem is growing faster than it is being rectified. The fact that Fata, with poor border control, as well as Azad Kashmir, have no drug rehabilitation centres is hugely worrying as new substances can easily be brought into the country and spread to other provinces.
The usual taboos associated with drug abuse in Pakistan prevent people from seeking help on their own. The government needs to play its role here to spread awareness in public spaces about the dangers of drugs and how to seek help for family members — rather than the usual course that often sees family members being shunned for having an addiction problem. Whatever government involvement there is in this regard is clearly ineffective. The lack of adequate provision of state-run rehabilitation and mental health centres is a problem that must be rectified at its earliest through effective coordination between the centre and the provinces. There is no visible implementation of laws when it comes to drug use and its related mental health problems even though this should be a top priority as mental well-being of the populace determines the success and health of any society.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2016.
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