By Dr Rajan Philips -
It is a lucrative international business activity with a turnover of $322 billion a year according to a 2007 UN Report. Official figures may never be available since it is a criminal activity that ruins the health
and lives of millions of people and corrodes the very fabric of society. We are talking of the illicit drugs trade.
Governments, international bodies like UNO, Who and NGOs realise the gravity of the issue and have been waging a relentless battle against this menace.
The institution by UNO of June 26 as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was a major step in this direction.
The Day, being observed since 1988, was chosen to commemorate a relevant historical event — Lin Zexu’s dismantling of the opium trade in Guangdong, China that triggered the First Opium War.
The key objective of the observance is to bring the world community together to fight the threat of drugs in order to create an international society free of drug abuse.
The celebrations are spearheaded by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which chooses an annual theme and organises campaigns to touch the consciousness and raise global awareness, particularly among the young, who are the prime targets of the drug mafia.
Some of the past themes include — “Think health, not drugs” (2010), “Do drugs control your life?” (2009) and “Drugs is not child’s play” (2005). This year’s theme is “Global action for healthy communities without drugs”.
In this context, the message of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is very relevant. According to him, while Governments have a great responsibility to counteract both drugs trafficking and drug abuse, communities as a whole must act decisively. This includes families, schools, civil society, religious organisations and the media.
The intensity of the problem calls for much concerted action. Around 200 million people take drugs at least occasionally. Of these, 25 million are considered drug dependent. Annually, 200,000 people die from drug-related illnesses.
Despite intense efforts, the drug menace remains a severe threat to public health and safety, socio-economic and political stability and even national security. Grave crimes like terrorism, insurgency and money-laundering are bolstered by drug trafficking. It is a malaise that impacts not only the drug addict but also the family members and whole society.
Is there a way out of this quagmire? We know ‘Prevention is better than cure’. Knowing the likely causes of the menace will help us take pro-active measures. Bad friends, peer pressure, oppressive family environment like broken homes breed unhealthy habits like smoking and drug abuse.
Obviously, families form the heart of the community must exert a positive influence on the young. Healthy family relationships based on mutual love and trust and the right balance between freedom and discipline is the need of the hour. The role of schools, colleges and community is equally significant.
While drug trafficking is an enormous crime that deserves stringent punishment, unwary victims of drug abuse and addiction who fall a prey to merciless anti-social elements need all support to kick the habit and get rehabilitated.
While this menace doesn’t spare any region or nation it is a matter of relief that in Oman, the ROP , bodies like National Commission for Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NCDPS) and dedicated NGO’s like Al Hayat Association are striving hard to create general awareness to curb the drug menace from assuming greater proportions.
The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking provides an apt fillip for all who care to rally together to fight the scourge of drug abuse.
n Get high on Life, not on drugs.
n Drugs: You use, you lose.