POLICYMAKERS must address drug use if they intend to curb the issue, said experts of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) yesterday.
Project Officer Suruchi Pant and Kunal Kishore, project officer of HIV Prevention, spoke about how drug abuse is still not seen as a real problem in some Southeast Asian countries.
Even if the issue of drug use problems is not direct when it comes to addressing social issues, Kunal said it was one of the many things that youths are suffering today.
He told The Brunei Times that drug abuse stems from cultures in a country, which can be linked with how drug issues arise.
"For instance, when we are talking about issues in a country, we usually talk about poverty, health needs, education and unemployment. These issues in turn leads to problems such as drug abuse which then becomes a really big problem," he said.
Another factor, said Suruchi, was the geographical proximity of a country, to a neighbouring country that can cater to their drug use.
"If a country is located near the largest drug producing countries, it makes other people susceptible to drug abuse as well. It makes a transit,"she said.
Kunal said that Commonwealth countries share are a lot of similarities, in terms of drug use issues.
"If you notice, some countries in Southeast Asia is going through a shift. The entire geopolitical system is changing."
"Issues like this arise because if your systems are not in place and they don't know how to tackle these issues, it can result in drug abuse," she added.
Kunal said that law enforcement has to be user-friendly, where policies can have different approaches. He explained that even when drugs users are incarcerated, there are systems where drug users are not discriminated or have access to support services.
"The generic approach of law enforcement would be to put the person behind bars because that is what our laws and systems. However having said that, there is a strong lobby that law enforcement and the prevention side has to go hand in hand very strongly," he said.
He added that while banning substances is important, it is not the best form of prevention.
Citing a study he made with a non-governmental organisation in India, where one of their policies was to ban alcohol, he said that people would still turn to other ways.
"Although parents were happy about this, there were still people who could not get alcohol, but went for other drugs," he said.
He added: "This is one of the examples that show when you are dealing with chronic users, they don't stop even when you have banned it."
Another factor raised by Suruchi was the benefit of support groups where other drug users have a sharing session.
"People coming together to share the same experience has been tried. But it's not just one system, it has to be one comprehensive strategy that has to be a multi-prolonged approach," she said.
"All these systems need to be strengthened a lot and they have to work in congruence with each other,"she said.
Kunal said that drug abuse should now only become a priority when one is sitting on a time bomb like HIV or hepatitis, in which both diseases are consequently directed to drug use.
Apart from support groups, the crucial preventative approach to drug use is through policymakers.
"To see its impact at the grassroots level, it should be complemented in the policy because that is where the big influence is," he said.
He added: "If this is not the priority of your decision makers, it somehow misses the charm it should."
The Brunei Times
Friday, March 13, 2009
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