Drug users should not be criminalised: Uttam
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TMB Report

Imphal: Social Welfare Director Ng Uttam  has maintained that criminalisation of drug users by law enforcing agencies and the society is not the only option to curb drug menace and stressed on the need for considering drug addiction as medical or public health issue.

Uttam was speaking as a resource person on the topic “Importance of demand reduction on drug policy” on a one day media awareness workshop on “Media Focus on Demand Reduction as a part of War on Drugs” organised jointly by Editor’s Guild Manipur (EGM) and Social Welfare Department at Hotel Sangai Continental on Saturday.

Uttam pointed out that curiosity and peer pressure among youths and the increasing gap between the society are the main factor for youths to give away to drugs. He said that in the past, youths showed discipline to the elders of the society and locality and hesitated in doing any inappropriate behaviour however, the decrease in community fabric has created a gap between the families in the society today and there is no consideration for one another in the society which has made youths to be able to use substance abuse openly in the public.

Uttam admitting that the state government does not have a clear survey report and appropriate data on the numbers of substance users and its details in the state and the state government has been relying on sample study data collected by the Ministry of Social Justice in 2019 under its project “Magnitude of Substance Uses in India.”

According to that data, the number of people using alcohol in the category of ‘current use’ is 22.4 per cent, ‘dependent use’ is 3.8 per cent and those in need of treatment are 9 per cent and the number of people using opioids in the category of ‘current use’ is 14.22 per cent, ‘dependent use’ is 1.8 per cent and those in need of treatment are 4 per cent.

He asserted that the treatment of alcohol abuse and de addiction and treatment centres in the state is very low as per the population.

He announced that the Social Welfare department has been planning to conduct a survey at the earliest for an updated report.

He said that taking up stringent actions only on demand reduction will not be successful to manage the issue of drugs as it may arouse certain unwanted situation and stressed on maintaining balance between supply demand and harm reduction equally.

He informed that there has been many reports of teenagers using drugs in the state and has reached an alarming stage. He noted that substance, drug abuse at an early age is more difficult to get treatment and recover however addiction in adults is low and treatment rate is higher as compared to teenagers and youths.

He also announced that a rehab centre for transgender will be handed over shortly at Khurai in Imphal East and another government rehab centre for male at Lilong in Thoubal district. He informed that CM Biren had also taken initiative for the establishment of state government’s rehab centres in all the 60 constituencies by renovating the unutilised government buildings in the state.