Say no to Drugs – Call 1927
By Dr. Priyangi Amarabandu
International day against drug abuse & illicit trafficking is commemorated every year on 26 June and the theme this year is Share facts on drugs, Save lives.
According to data published by the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB) research section (Information Handbook on the abuse of drugs in Sri Lanka 2020), among the commonly used illegal drugs in the year 2019 is Cannabis and usage is 1.9 per cent of the population above the age of 14 years. The number of persons estimated to have used Cannabis is 301,898. At the same time, Cannabis was among most of the arrests made in connection with drugs in 2019.
46 per cent had been reported from the Western Province. 92,540 or 0.6 per cent of the population above 14 years of age in Sri Lanka are persons who use Heroin. Among males (over the age of 14 years) Heroin usage is 1.2 per cent while among the female population it is 0.017 per cent. 1.5 per cent of the population above 14 years of age, abuse or misuse a type of drug used for medical purposes.
In addition to sharing data and updated information on usage of illegal drugs, when creating “a race free of drugs – a prosperous nation,” according to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s vision, the NDDCB is fulfilling a very important role. This institution which was established through the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board Act No. 11 of 1984 serves as a national hub linking together all national and international institutions for eradicating the drug menace from Sri Lanka.
According to the Manifesto, Saubaghyaye Dekma in order to achieve the national vision of creating a country free of the drug hazard, while reviewing the National Policy of Sri Lanka on controlling and prevention of the abuse of drugs and acting on a joint mechanism based on more organised, balanced, scientific evidence the NDDCB strives to minimise use of drugs and associated harmful consequences.
At the same time, in accordance with the UN’s International Drug Convention signed by Sri Lanka, while obtaining international and regional cooperation regarding drug control and in connection with controlling the global drug problem, contribution is made to supportive exercises. As a result of the global drug problem, identifying new trends that arise regionally and locally and responding to those, acting with more attention through a technological approach is a main responsibility possessed by the national central institution.
In the face of the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus which has spread across the world, drug addicts have become a group that is at high risk and it has been identified as a habit that further intensifies the spread of the virus. Even in the face of such a risky situation, within such a background the NDDCB has had the capability of continuously providing services to target groups while identifying the responsibility of a national institution. Among the main roles of the NDDCB is providing treatment and rehabilitation services which is carried out with priority.
The Act No. 54 of 2007 for drug addicts (treatment and rehabilitation) on behalf of planning provisions for treating persons who are addicted to medications or drugs and rehabilitating them and establishing provisions connected to that or for matters in conjunction with it, has introduced legal provisions. Entering treatment services voluntarily is promoted through this. Four treatment and rehabilitation centers are in operation in Nittambuwa, Thalangama, Galle and Kandy.
These centers provide treatment free of charge to persons who come voluntarily or are sent by parents, relatives, friends, from Court, Government and NonGovernmental Organisations. It is of value when certain clients leave the treatment centers subsequent to rehabilitation, and they refer other addicts for treatment.
These treatment programmes are being operated by counselling officers at professional level and the goal of the NDDCB is to reintroduce to society these persons as productive citizens. Group Counselling is also provided to drug addicts in order to help them strengthen their personalities and to pay attention to moods and sentiments.
Subsequent to successful treatment and rehabilitation these persons are referred to specialist psychiatrists for further assessment. They are continually assessed when they join society and a quality aftercare service is guaranteed. When following up clients as well as expanding services at provincial level the external service unit of the NDDCB renders a very significant service.
The external service unit, with the help of the government and Non-Governmental Organisations conduct community-based programmes and provide services to clients who are under pressure within society and groups which are at high risk. At the same time, the NDDCB supervises designated and private treatment centers which provide treatment and rehabilitation. The purpose of this is to attract target groups to quality treatment services.
To fulfil the responsibility assigned to the NDDCB, active contribution is provided through drug prevention. In order to find solutions for drug problems which exist throughout the island, attention is focused on prevention, introduction to society and sustainable development and programmes with comparative and extensive access are carried out to minimise the demand for drugs. Accordingly, under the theme, “People are empowered through quality education and training, to create a secure environment where drug abuse is at its minimum and prevented,” scientific and quality prevention educational programmes are conducted.
As the central national organisation that is in operation in connection with drug abuse, prevention and control, in Sri Lanka, in order to provide continuous services and as a remedy for main social problems which was the result of COVID-19 and drug users in the country, and also as an initial step towards following remote access the telephone counselling service on number 1927 has been launched.
This was established as a service to provide required assistance to persons with various problems regarding drug use and for members of their families, as a method of intervention at basic level. This service is operative 24 hours of the day and is available in all three languages. In addition, a national level narcotics laboratory is in operation under the NDDCB to carry out scientific analyses in connection with drugs. This laboratory also provides analytical reports and recommendations as well as required technical assistance and training regarding control of drugs and implementing the law. At the same time, the chemical authority also controls, supervises and regulates chemicals which have been subject to various controls and can be used for manufacturing drugs.
In this manner action required for the control of drug abuse at every level is taken. Steps have been taken to expand treatment opportunities while identifying the timely requirement and existing limits regarding treatment and rehabilitation. The final goal of this programme is to produce productive citizens who will contribute to the national labour force and are drug-free, through more quality treatment services using treatment methods which have been approved of and based on scientific evidence.
Preparations have commenced to expand national level prevention programmes to provincial, district and local levels and to guarantee as well as to provide services required by all people, as a joint programme. The NDDCB is providing services through a modern approach with the maximum possible contribution to help make the manifesto Saubaghyaye Dekma a reality under the leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Defense Secretary Retired General Kamal Gunaratne’s guidance.
Consultant Dr. Priyangi Amarabandu is the Chairperson of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board