Teaching to say 'No" to drugs | Daily News

Teaching to say 'No" to drugs

Have we done enough to sensitize the people in general and the youth in particular, to the adverse effects of drugs? This question came into this writer’s mind when he browsed through the report issued by the National Dangerous Drug Control Board on the drug abuse situation in Sri Lanka for 2016.

Last year, 79,378 suspects were arrested for drug-related offences. Almost half of them were from western province. The report says we have around 200,000 cannabis users and 45,000 heroin users. In fact, six months ago, NDDCB Chairman Professor Ravindra Fernando confirmed that over 250,000 people of Sri Lanka are addicted to drugs.

Two prevalent drugs in our country are cannabis and heroin. Cannabis is mainly cultivated illicitly in dry zone of Sri Lanka. In 2016, 4174 kg of cannabis were seized in Sri Lanka. The report does not indicate any details about the estimated annual supply of cannabis distributed within the country. A recent news report indicated that over 50,000 kilos of cannabis are nabbed annually by the Police Anti-narcotics Bureau each year.

NDDCB report indicates the annual supply of heroin in the country as 1478 kg (estimated) about 4 kg per day. It also specifies that the reported number of persons treated for drug abuse island-wide was 2355 in 2016.

The statistics make one thing absolutely clear. We still do have a serious drug abuse problem in Sri Lanka and we need to search for more effective solutions. To start with, we need to find answers to two basic questions. Why is there a drug abuse problem existing in our country? What should be done to alleviate it?

The causes

The drug abuse is quite a complex phenomenon, which has various social, cultural, biological, geographical, historical and economic aspects. The disintegration of the old joint family system, absence of parental love and care in modern families where both parents are working, decline of old religious and moral values etc. had led to a rise in the number of addicts who take drugs to escape hard realities of life.

Drug abuse is also primarily due to the nature of the drug abused, the personality of the individual and the addict’s immediate environment. The processes of industrialization, urbanization and migration have led to loosening of the traditional methods of social control rendering an individual vulnerable to the stresses and strains of modern life. The fast-changing social milieu, among other factors, is mainly contributing to the growth of drug abuse, both of traditional and of new psychoactive substances.

Apart from affecting the financial stability, drug addiction increases conflicts and causes untold emotional pain for every member of the family. With most drug users being in the productive age group of 18-35 years, the loss in terms of human potential is incalculable. The damage to the physical, psychological, moral and intellectual growth of the youth is very high. Adolescent drug abuse is one of the major areas of concern in adolescent and young people’s behaviour.

Women in Sri Lanka face greater problems from drug abuse. The consequences include domestic violence and infection with HIV, as well as the financial burden.

Steps taken

At the national level, drug abuse is intrinsically linked with racketeering, conspiracy, corruption, illegal money transfers, terrorism and violence threatening the very stability of governments.

Sri Lanka has braced itself to face the menace of drug trafficking both at the national and international levels. Several measures involving innovative changes in enforcement, legal and judicial systems have been brought into effect. The introduction of death penalty for drug-related offences has been a major deterrent. The Police Narcotics Bureau has been empowered with stringent provisions to curb this menace. Education Ministry is planning to launch a programme to prevent schoolchildren using narcotics within school premises.


Prevention is the best way in which drug abuse can be dealt with. The issue of the prevention of drug abuse should be addressed from various perspectives. As experts point out, psycho-social interventions remain the cornerstone of this prevention programme. Recent years have seen developments both in primary and in early secondary prevention procedures.

Primary prevention of drug abuse is concentrated through community mobilisation and development and dissemination of good practices. The community should actively participate in determining the problems and needs, developing solutions, and implementing and evaluating interventions with the support from professionals.

The secondary prevention focuses on individuals who have developed minimal or no complications related to drug abuse. Brief interventions, many of which are based on the FRAMES (feedback, responsibility, advice, menu of strategies, empathy, and self-efficacy) model, have shown promise, and their easy administration make them particularly attractive for use in countries like us, where trained manpower is scarce.

In fact, drug abuse is one affliction that can be easily prevented if the prevention programmes are aimed to involve entities such as families, schools and the immediate communities.

Media – especially the entertainment segment – also needs to understand its role in this context and play a positive role by resisting the urge to earn millions by romanticizing and glorifying drug abuse. It needs to highlight the damning consequences of drug abuse. It is important that the youth are made to feel that drug usage itself is harmful in every conceivable way and only then will they stop using them and prevent others in their peer group from doing the same.

Sustained treatment is the only option for people who have already gone down the road of drug abuse and are highly into it. It is said that the best treatments normally emphasize on phenomena related to the individual’s life.

This includes areas such as medical, psychological and work-related needs as well as issues in relationships with other people in the person’s life. The treatment sessions combine medication and behavioural therapy so that the victim of drug abuse gradually stops feeling the urge to do drugs. These treatment programmes also impart the skills and capability required in order to say no to drugs in the future, which is highly critical for a complete cure to drug abuse.

In addition to the facilities in NDDCB, there are a number of Non-Government organisations who are genuinely involved in offering their services. Most of them have their day care facilities which seeks to rehabilitate drug users.

This writer would like to suggest few other steps to be taken by governmental and non-governmental agencies in the area of prevention of drug abuse. One suggestion is the inclusion of information on drug abuse as an obligatory component of the upper school curriculum.

The second suggestion is that Ministry of Health establish few more rehabilitation centres based at the district hospital levels.

The third suggestion is that the time is opportune for the Government, through other agencies and NGOs, undertake a major national study on the current causes, extent, patterns and trends of drug and alcohol abuse in the country. This study can become the basis for a long-term strategic plan for prevention and treatment of drug abuse in Sri Lanka.

Drug abuse can be addressed at the individual level, at the local level (societal, national) and at the cross-national level. At the individual level, there has to be a synthesis of biological understanding with the exploration of background socio-cultural factors.

At the national and cross-national level, there has to be a concerted effort of all the segments of the society in managing the issue of drug abuse, taking into account the local socio-cultural and political scenarios. 


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