Forces driving 'concerning' substance abuse in Kiphire

The Opioid Substitution Therapy Centre at District Hospital Kiphire. (Morung Photo)

Rising drug use in Kiphire District-I


P Achumse Yingbithongrü
Kiphire | December 11

The district of Kiphire, in recent times, has been witnessing high proportionate consumption of drug and chemical abuse, particularly among teenagers and youths, causing concerns among professional practitioners as well as general population.

Many agree that it has been decades since Kiphire had witnessed such concerning development and likening it to the 1990s, when use of drugs was at its ‘all-time high’ in the district resulting in loss of countless of lives and rise in HIV & AIDS infection. 

The sustained and collective efforts by civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations, churches and Naga Political groups in the early 90 have relatively brought the problem under control to some extent.

However, drug abuse seems to be alarmingly on the rise among teenagers, youths and grown-ups, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Zisela Sangtam, a counselor at Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) Centre, Kiphire also pointed out that the number of drug users exponentially increased after the pandemic. 

Accordingly, there is a general apprehension that it is causing irreparable damage socially, economically and mentally to families affected and experiences shared by current and recovered users depict similar circumstances.

In part-I of a two part series analysing rising substance abuse in Kiphire district, The Morung Express looks at the commonly used drugs, and how these are peddled (based on information provided by users), besides looking at efforts to combat the usages. 

Commonly used drugs

Most users agree that drugs commonly available in the market are the enigmatic yet clearly felt ‘Sunflower’ drug and the ‘all-time favourite’ ‘Spasmo Proxyvon Plus’ popularly referred to as ‘SP.’

As recently reported by this newspaper, the former is yet to be properly categorised or analysed by law enforcement and other agencies, the latter is commonly known as a ‘painkiller’ tablet. 

Apart from Sunflower, drug users admitted that they also take relaxant and sedatives such as ‘Cycloberzaprine,’ ‘Lorazepam’ and ‘Alprazolam,’ a tranquiliser sold under the brand name Xanax, among others.

Along with those, users often take ‘Cough Syrup’ as alternatives, whenever they are unable to afford Sunflower and SP, which they usually purchase in the street from drug peddlers at inflated rate.

However, most users named SP and Sunflower as their preferred drugs, with latter emerging as the clear ‘favourite.’  

Narratives from recovering and current users informed that while some unfortunately developed the habit while under-treatment for injuries, for most it is a case of ‘curiosity or peer influence.’

Modus Operandi of drug peddlers 

The drug peddlers seem to have particular way of attracting new users or initiating them into dependency. 

To keep business running, many users claimed that drug peddlers would initially provide ‘Sunflower’ drugs free of cost to teenagers for ‘trying.’

Later, when these teenagers get hooked, they act as an intermediary to influence their friends to sample the same.

Once initiated, the teenagers become the clients as well as agents in selling and supplying the drugs. 

Meanwhile, to escape detection by the law enforcement agencies and CSOs, drug peddlers have also adopted another ‘ingenious tactic.’

The tactic involves exclusively selling the drugs only to those users agreeing to consume the substance at a designated spot chosen by the peddlers, without taking it home to maintain confidentiality and secrecy.

Only those drugs users who have complete faith of the drug peddlers are allowed to take drugs home, a user narrated.  

Many drug users also claimed that instead of private vehicles, drug peddlers prefer to transport their ‘products’ mostly on public transport system, so as to avoid detection. 

Registered users

Data shared by Zisela, the counselor at OST Centre Kiphire informed that cumulatively, 362 users have been registered at the centre till date. Out of this, 180 are active clients, while 18 have recovered so far.  

However, many prefer to stay outside the official professional purview due to various reasons. 

There are hundreds who are yet to register or come out in open to seek help for fear of social stigma from the society, a user revealed. 

Some addicts also claimed that substance abuse has become so rampant that teenagers as young as 14 years of age are hooked onto drugs.

Combat efforts

Feeling the effect of blatant substance abuse in the society and to combat and contain the use of drugs among teenagers, the Kiphire Town GB’s Union, in August, passed a resolution stating that any drug peddlers found selling drugs would be expelled from Kiphire for a period of 10 years. 

On August 31, ganja collected from all the 11 Wards of Kiphire town was destroyed outside the GB's Court. The contraband was collected by a team of GBs, District administration, Police Officers and all the Ward Chairpersons and organisations.

A DIPR report then stated that besides the 10-year expulsion of sellers, the team resolved that any person involved in using drugs and ganja would be taken for public procession along with all the members of the household. 

However, leaders from various CSOs and NGOs noted that the only way to contain substance abuse is to spread awareness starting from village level and focus on providing life-skill training for the drop outs so that unassuming innocent teenagers and youths lives are not ruined. 

Another observed cause of high usage has also been associated with depression among youth and teenager, which they tend to consider as normal behaviour.

The counselor at OST Centre Kiphire, thus, stressed on providing more awareness about the impact of substance abuse through church and social gatherings at every level. 

This is the first of a two-part series.