The Challenge of drug addiction in Chitral

.. by Islamuddin

Drug addiction is refusing to go away in many areas of Chitral, despite efforts to stop it. No meaningful and serious study has been carried out to find out the causes for the failure of these efforts. The activity driven and poorly led campaigns in this behalf suffered from flawed sense of priorities and wrong methodologies. There was no focus on breaking the supply chain or enable the potential addicts to exercise informed decisions. Here it is worth mentioning that In China opium ban by the then emperor triggered opium wars, imposed by the colonial powers to keep them in perpetual bondage in the name of freedom of personal choice. In this approach they concealed their real motive which was to sap the energies of Chinese people and disable them from shaking the world as a giant that Nepoleon had so correctly predicted earlier.? It is interesting to note that both Chitral and China were the ruled by colonial powers.

However most of the drug users in Chitral happen to be Ismailies. Yarkhun, Begusht, Arkari and Parabeg are the worst affected. None of the users controls the supply chain, although few may be involved in peddling or pushing the drugs, which include opium and charas. Alcohol either comes from the kalash valleys or prepared at home by the users or by those who want to make quick money. NGOs led by AKDN and other institutions have spent significant funds to reverse the trend but without results because these efforts focused more on the curative aspects rather than the preventive side. Their preventive strategy increased addiction instead. Drug addiction takes place as a recipe for stress management, pain killing due to inadequate health facilities, peer influence, bad company, domestic discontent, idleness, escape from harsh realities of life, injustice, reduced role of religion, lack of recreational facilities to provide healthy outlet for energies and search for euphoria or as a matter of fashion. In fact one senior community leader Is said to have connived by citing climatic reasons.

The newly launched SEDP does address some of these issues but still there is much to be desired when it comes to the methodology. Recently an Afghani was murdered in Duaba village near Garam Chashma. It was a blind murder carried out in the dark of the night but our efficient police traced the culprits with the help of his stolen mobile found in Arkari. Two teenagers were found involved, both were addicts and drug pushers using girls as carriers. In this background the local chapter of SEDP held an awareness seminar. I was also invited to speak. Ironically it was an irrelevant crowd with a long list of speakers. Few of the speakers had some knowledge about the issues involved and the rest spent up much of the time in self praise or settling personal scores. At the end of the four hour session the audience was baffled as to why so many speakers were there to bombard them with faulty and one sided information that amounted to harassment. The target audience for this session should have been the addicts or the potential ones. Better results can be obtained by out sourcing it to educational institutions or an outfit created for this very purpose. Without addressing credibility issues positive results are difficult to come by.

Then what is the way out of this menace? Detoxification drives ended up with more relapsing than rehabilitating. Thus precious resources are wasted. Without addressing root causes of drug addiction, desired results are not possible. The present trend of addict bashing and ostracizing must give way to ownership, love and empathy. Right kind of awareness about the ill effects of drugs and the need for informed choice may be highlighted in a neutral way without hurting the ego of addicts. It may never be forgotten that every action will have proportionate opposite reaction. Young people, who go into addiction to escape the harsh realities of life that they are unable to change, need psycho-therapy not lectures or reprimands. Without improving family ambiance, involving children in decision making in a meaningful way and providing facilities for healthy recreation no improvement is likely. The Government needs to implement laws requiring no drug use in public places, especially festivities where addiction primarily starts. Law prohibiting sale of drugs to the underage may be enforced. This is the area where the community can play a useful role. Ismailis who take pride in their volunteerism should not have failed in this area had there been sincerity and sense of flawless service.

There is no gainsaying that drug business poses a huge problem in every society. In advanced countries opium derivatives are extensively used as pain killers. In USA some states have legalized use of marijuana (charas) for recreation purposes. Therefore instead of blind condemnation, drug uses for medicinal purposes on medical prescriptions may be highlighted. Similarly drugs as tools for stress management may be subjected to the advice of psycho-therapists. The need of the hour is to create right awareness about uses and abuses of drugs, uses having been made subject to the advices of medical professionals and psychiatrists. No amount of lectures based on religious beliefs can work given our cultural context and lack of true religious sense among the bulk of the populace. Demonstration effect of wealth may be reduced by creating an egalitarian society. Instead of the filter down approach, distributive approach may be adopted. The distribution of state or community largesse?s should be strictly on merits and entrenched vested interests may not be allowed to take roots through mobility. Instead of volunteers chosen for being idle and then mandated to check paid professionals, an independent community ombudsman may be appointed with sub offices in every region.

According to research findings in the USA, no invention or product is intrinsically good or bad. It is the person who makes it good or bad. Therefore user discretion and parental guidance are the keys to solve the problems arising from new technologies. Another research again carried out in the USA has found that children grow in the image of their parents right from the second month in their mother?s womb. Therefore without educated (not literate only) mothers and healthy family relations exercising informed choices will not happen. Inferiority complex, for whatever reason, including lack of satisfaction with a belief system and inability to change it, may also lead to escapism and going into drugs. Therefore all those engaged in fighting drug addiction should put their houses, priorities and strategies in order before embarking on the campaign. Using services of former drug addicts having experiential knowledge of its negative effects may be useful, provided the process of ostracizing and stigmatizing drug addicts is rolled back and climate of empathy and ownership is created. This crusade is obligatory and should not be left to NGOs alone who may have vested interest to keep it alive or exaggerate its incidences as source of funding … Islamuddin, Garm Chashma, Chitral 25 Feb 2018

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