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Drug Abuse

Drug Abuse illegal use of drugs for non-medicinal purposes. Such drugs include alcohol, tobacco and solvents and exclude medicinal, and non-psychoactive substances. The UN Conventions do not define drug abuse, and use a variety of terms including abuse, misuse and to illicit use, which are understood to mean the use of illicit substances and, for licit substances, use without prescription and/or in contravention of the specified dose. Illicit drugs destroy innumerable lives and undermine societies. Confronting the illicit trade in drugs and their effects remains a major challenge for the international community. Global hectarage devoted to opium poppy cultivation expanded to about 280,000 hectares by 1996. Almost 90% of the world's illicitly produced opiates originate in the two main production areas the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan) and the Golden Triangle (Laos, Myanmar, Thailand).

The illicit production of opium gum was thought to have reached 5,000 tons in 1996. About one third of the total production is believed to be consumed as opium. The remaining is converted into heroin in laboratories. More than 300 tons of heroin were produced annually in the 1990s, mostly for export. Since the mid-1980s, the world has faced a wave of synthetic stimulant abuse, with approximately nine times the quantity seized in 1993 than in 1978, equivalent to an average annual increase of 16%. The principal synthetic drugs manufactured clandestinely are the amphetamine type stimulants, whereas sedatives, another type of synthetic drug, which includes barbiturates and benzodiazepines, are diverted from licit channels.

Bangladesh is located between the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent making it vulnerable to be a transit for trafficking of drugs. Drug traffickers find it comparatively easier to traffic their merchandise through the seacoast and waterways of the country. Bangladesh has a very large porous border with India, where Phensedyl (a cough suppressant syrup containing codeine phosphate) is produced legally. Of late Phensedyl has become a drug of abuse in Bangladesh, although its production was banned in 1982. Moreover, an injectable Indian drug known as tidigesic injection (containing buprenorphine) is being abused in Bangladesh. Through its large and porous border, it is very easy to smuggle these drugs into Bangladesh. With rapid advancement in technology, especially with the introduction of satellite tv channels, alien cultures have been eroding age-old moral values. Influenced by these, many youths are inclined to imitate the so-called 'fast life' and take drugs as a symbol of status.

Drugs of abuse are of two types: natural drugs and psychotropic substances (or synthetic substances). The former includes opium, cocaine and cannabis. The latter includes pethidine, barbiturates, tranquillisers, amphetamines, lysergic acid diethalmide. Both types are subject to control under United Nations Conventions. Drugs which are mostly abused in Bangladesh are heroin, hemp (ganja), pethidine and some psychotropic substances such as mandrax, valium, librium, secondal, etc. Previously ganja was cultivated in naogaon. In the past, this was a good source of revenue but now, since Bangladesh is a signatory of the UN Convention, its production was stopped in all phases in this country.

The use of illegal drugs and crime go hand in hand. Drug users do anything to obtain drugs to satisfy their habit. crimes most frequently committed by drug users are pickpocketing, theft, robbery, extortion, prostitution, public nuisance and drug peddling. Many crimes are committed under the influence of drugs. Data on drug incidents show the steady increase of drug addiction and as a natural corollary, these have their due repercussion in the overall crime incidence in the country.

The number of drug-related arrests, illicit drug seizures and people seeking medical help have increased during the past decade in Bangladesh. The problems of drug abuse are related to violence, crime, family disruption, health problems, including interference with normal reproductive functions, and long-term damage to the brain, heart and lungs. The most devastating problem associated with drug use is the spread of HIV among injecting drug users and from injecting drug users to non-injecting or non-drug users through sexual contact

Policy and legislation The government of Bangladesh recognises drug abuse as one of the most serious problems and is firmly committed to supporting international, regional and bilateral efforts aimed at its prevention and control. The national drug enforcement policy is embedded in the Narcotics Control Act 1990. The government took measures to amend the Narcotics Control Act 1990 in line with UN Conventions. The major features of drug abuse prevention and control in this legislation are: (i) Establishment of the National Narcotics Control Board (NNCB) with the task of drug abuse prevention and control, and to encourage foreign and domestic participation in drug control activities; (ii) Compulsory treatment of drug addiction; (iii) Establishment of drug treatment centres; (iv) Obligation of organisations and individuals to supply information on drug abuse; (v) Restrictions and control on prescription of certain drugs which lead to addiction if abused; (vi) Control of production, distribution, prescription, sale and use of sedative, hypnotic and tranquilliser drugs; (vii) Classification of scheduling of drugs according to control measures and intensity of harmful effects; (viii) Different types of punishment for different drug offences according to the severity of their nature and quantity of drugs involved; (ix) Financial investigation of drug crimes; (x) Freezing and forfeiture of assets of drug traffickers; and (xi) Establishment of drug testing laboratory to speed up the trial of drug cases.

Plans and programmes With financial and technical support from the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) the government of Bangladesh undertook a Five Year Master Plan for drug abuse control in Bangladesh. The plan is divided into three sectors - Law Enforcement and Legal Assistance, Preventive Education and Information, and Treatment and Rehabilitation. The implementation of this Master Plan started in 1994. Its major components were: constancy and technical assistance regarding programme development, policy formulation, updating laws and regulations; training (overseas and domestic) of personnel of government and non-government organisations; workshops; supply of transport, logistics and equipment; community intervention programmes; and social awareness campaigns.

Organisation The government believes that the fight against drug is a multi-disciplinary task, and it must be accomplished by individuals and organisations from all concerned fields. The organisations entrusted with drug prevention activities in Bangladesh are the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), Police, Customs, BDR and Coast Guard. The ministries of health and family planning, education, information, social welfare, and youth and sports are also involved in various aspects of drug abuse prevention. DNC is primarily responsible for administration and enforcement of national laws to control psychoactive drugs. Its total manpower is 1,274. It has 34 major offices throughout the country, which includes the headquarter at dhaka, zonal offices at divisional headquarters, 25 regional offices at major district headquarters and zonal intelligence offices. DNC headquarters has four major branches of administration and an Intelligence wing. A director supervises each of the four branches of administration.

International cooperation Bangladesh inherited the partnership in the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961. It became a signatory to the Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971 and the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substances 1988, and signed the SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substances in 1990. Bangladesh celebrates international day against drug abuse and its illicit trafficking on 26 June nationwide each year through a variety of programmes. Bangladesh entered into a bilateral agreement on technical assistance with the USA in 1993 for drug abuse prevention and control, and received communication equipment. The country has been provided with training facilities by DAP of the Colombo plan Bureau, SAARC, UNESCO, ILO and ESCAP.

Bangladesh has hosted a number of SAARC workshops, seminars and symposium during the last few years. DNC has a close contact with the regional office of DEA based in New Delhi. Exchange of information with USA, UK, France, and India is being done through their Drug Liaison Officers posted at Dhaka. The country sends information regularly to the INCB at Vienna and the SDOMD at Colombo. It has also entered into a bilateral agreement with Myanmar for suppression of illicit traffic on drugs. It signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Iran for drug abuse prevention and control. Another bilateral agreement for prevention and control of drug abuse with India is under active consideration by Bangladesh.

Training Training programmes for all classes of DNC officials on various aspects of drug abuse prevention continue both at home and abroad. The overseas training programmes are mainly sponsored by the Colombo Plan Bureau, SAARC, UNDCP, JICA, USLA, DEA and INM of USA, France and the British Government. Domestic training programmes are mainly sponsored and conducted by DNC itself. All officers from the rank of additional directors down to the rank of inspectors were provided with a number of basic and specialised training courses on various aspects of drug abuse prevention and control, covering the whole range of both demand and supply reduction activities. A core trainer group has also been developed within DNC. UNDCP's Drug Control Project in Bangladesh is also providing extensive training on both demand and supply reduction for DNC and other law enforcement agencies. Special workshops on law enforcement and legal assistance for orientation of judges, magistrates, and prosecutors are being conducted by DNC and UNDCP throughout the country.

Methods of prevention and 'control cover a considerable area of both supply and demand reduction. The major supply reduction activities in Bangladesh are: (a) Licensing, (b) Monitoring and Inspection, (c) Intelligence and Enforcement, (d) Crop Eradication and Destruction of Drugs, (e) Investigation, and (f) Prosecution and Sanctions.

Licensing is used in Bangladesh to control the production, processing, export, import, transport, distribution or sale, use or consumption of alcohol, spirit, alcohol-containing products, and certain narcotic drugs used for medical purposes. The total number of different kinds of licenses under the control of DNC is 3,765. Licensing is an effective method to control and limit drug-supply facilities, their outlets, locations, types, numbers and activity-hours.

Monitoring and inspection of the supply system of drugs is done by DNC through its field offices. Liquor shops are inspected once a month and others once a quarter. Officials above the rank of inspector can inspect any license whenever desired.

Intelligence and enforcement DNC directly hits the pipeline of drug supply through its intelligence and enforcement activities. Police, customs authorities, and Border Guards of Bangladesh are also directly doing this job. DNC carries out its enforcement activities through its 103 circle offices located throughout the country. Each circle has a six-member staff, which includes one inspector, one sub-inspector, one assistant sub-inspector and three sepoys. In spite of its shortage of manpower, scarcity of necessary equipment and training, DNC detects about 3,000 cases of drug abuse each year and recovers huge quantities of different kinds of illicit drugs. During the period between 1993 and 2000, law enforcing agencies arrested 16,792 persons and seized 80 kg of heroin, 10.13 tons of cannabis, 210,766 bottles of phensydyl (codeine), 7.5 kg of cocaine, 21,388 ampules of Buprenorphine injection, 44 kg of charash, (THC), 22,388 ampules of pethidine injection, 86,465 litres of ID liquors, and 30, 850 litres of rectified spirit.

Crop eradication, crop substitution and destruction of drugs Because Bangladesh produces no narcotics drugs, it has no crop eradication or crop substitution programmes. However, it seizes and destroys the small amount of cannabis plants cultivated illegally in remote rural areas. Number of cannabis plants eradicated during the last seven years is about 348,000.

Investigation DNC and the police are empowered to investigate drug cases in Bangladesh. Officers above the rank of inspectors are authorised to conduct investigations.

Prosecution and sanction DNC and the police carry out prosecution of drug cases in courts. Police has inspectors in each magistrate court in Bangladesh. DNC has 12 prosecutors and 37 assistant prosecutors at 25 regional headquarters. Drug cases are tried in general courts, which are over-burdened because of thousands of pending cases.

Demand reduction The government of Bangladesh believes that drug abuse prevention programmes will not succeed unless they consists both of supply and demand reduction programmes. Therefore, the government prefers to conduct various demand reduction activities. The activities so far practised in Bangladesh are: (a) prevention, (b) education, (c) price control and taxation, (d) control and restriction on advertisement of drugs, (e) treatments and (f) rehabilitation.

A major role in demand reduction activities in Bangladesh may be played by the ministries of information, education, social-welfare, health, youth and sports, and local government. The drug control activities carried out through various methods of demand reduction in Bangladesh are as follows:

Prevention DNC and its field offices have programmes for public awareness campaigns against drug abuse throughout the country, including organisation of rallies, seminars, and discussion meetings. DNC headquarter publishes Narcotics Control Bulletins and Special Drug Control Souvenirs regularly. DNC has made an 18-minute short film on the consequences of drug abuse. A 60-second TV spot against drug abuse has also been made. DNC is also considering a programme for training of imams of Mosques for preaching anti-drug messages. DNC publishes posters, stickers, booklets and brochures on the harmful effects of drug abuse. A series of information booklets on various drugs have also been published under the Master Plan.

DNC and UNDCP Project office undertook a massive community action programme for drug abuse prevention throughout the country involving non-government organisations with financial assistance from UNDCP. DNC field officers conduct public meetings and seminars on various aspects of drug abuse problems. They show cinema slides containing drug awareness messages in local cinema halls. The Youth Development Directorate also takes up these sorts of programmes for prevention and public awareness campaigns. Moreover, they hold discussions and debates occasionally. NGOs and social organisations occasionally take prevention programmes on drug abuse.

The Strategic Plan for Drug Demand Reduction in Bangladesh, prepared under the Master Plan for Drug Abuse Control in Bangladesh by the Department of Narcotics Control and UNDCP, mentions as many as 19 specific strategies. The Master Plan suggests restructuring of DNC to better coordinate drug demand reduction activities. It proposes to establish community coordination committees, develop and disseminate a core package of prevention materials, organise training for community and religious leaders and NGOs, establish a trained cadre of counsellors to deliver preventive counselling at appropriate locations, develop adequate youth recreation facilities and programmes, and initiate a wide range of employment training programmes. The Plan also suggests to develop motivation/incentives programmes for private sector and business associations, involve law enforcement officials in preventive education in the community, develop a media policy and make amendments to the advertising policy through development of the concept of counter-advertising. The Master Plan gives special emphasis on placement of health warnings on labels/packaging of all tobacco, tobacco products and medicines, establishment of parents forum and organisation of training of parents, infusion of preventive education into the formal and non-formal education systems, establishment of a totally drug-free environment in schools, provision of training for educationists, and development and delivery of work place drug prevention programmes.

The five-year strategic plan lays down specific strategies in the treatment and rehabilitation. Major strategies outlined in the Master Plan are: completion of a community-based needs assessment; development of a client monitoring system; dissemination of inter-agency information; improvement of sources of existing information on drugs; provision for research; monitoring and evaluation; training of personnel; coordination of treatment and rehabilitation services; provision of social integration and aftercare services; and development and delivery of community-based and target-oriented programmes. Other strategies are utilisation of existing programmes and networks, development of a treatment and rehabilitation model, introduction of appropriate harm reduction models, delivery of work place and outreach programmes, and emphasis on HIV/AIDS

Education The government introduced drug education in regular school curricula. DNC prevention teams of Regional Narcotics Control offices visit educational institutions regularly and provide classroom lectures on the harmful effects of drug abuse.

Price control and taxation Almost all narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances except a very few for medicinal purposes are restricted in Bangladesh. A taxation system to control and minimise the use of drugs in the country is only applicable on alcohol. A very high rate of duty is imposed on any kinds of alcohol and spirit to keep those beyond the reach of ordinary people. The government controls the import of raw materials and precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of any narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

Control and restriction on advertising for drugs The government does not allow any advertisement for drugs in radio and television, though this restriction is not applicable to tobacco products.

Treatment and detoxification The Narcotics Control Act 1990 provides provisions for treatment of drug addicts and establishment of drug treatment centres by the government. The expenditure of drug addiction treatment is generally borne by the government. This law also provides provisions for declaring jail hospitals as drug treatment centres. Since 1990, DNC has its own drug treatment centre at Tejgaon in Dhaka. Three other drug treatment centres have been established in khulna, rajshahi and chittagong. There are also a number of private clinics and hospitals to treat drug addicts. The law made it obligatory for physicians and family heads to supply information on drug addiction to law enforcement agencies. [M Enamul Huq]