Grip of drug epidemic - A ticking-time bomb 


In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, an alarming rise in drug abuse among young people was a primary concern for the Naga people. Till the 1990s, drug addiction was widespread in Nagaland state. The addicts were primary abusers of heroin and the prevalence of drug-related school dropout and unemployment, among other social evils were predominant. Staring from the late 1980s, the Naga Mothers’ Association led the battle against drug trafficking. At that time, members of the association recollect that heroin commonly known as ‘No 4’ was easily available from across the Golden Triangle which passes through the heart of Kohima and it became a common goal for mothers from all localities and villages in and around Kohima to fight against the use and sale of drugs in their respective areas. The association played a major role in setting up rehabilitation centres and apprehending drug traffickers with assistance of law enforcing agencies like the police and excise personnel. Unfortunately, after almost thirty years, a parallel threat is hovering over the Naga families and homes. 

Drug abuse is not a new trend and has been on the rise over the past few years, but has recently gotten worse. ‘Nagaland figures among the 10 states in India whose percentage of population are severely affected by drug abuse’- an official quoted during the International Day against Drug Abuse & Illicit Trafficking observation held in Kohima on June 27, 2022. Besides Nagaland, other NE states like Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim also featured in the top 10 list of states for drug abuse. The Intelligence Officer of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Zonal, Guwahati in his address reiterated that Nagaland serves as a transit route for trafficking drugs from Manipur and Myanmar such as morphine, opium and brown sugar/heroin with Dimapur as the main transit hub. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s report on ‘Magnitude of Substance Use in India 2019,’ in Nagaland state, 4.7% and 6.5% of the surveyed population were users of cannabis and opioids respectively. Drugs such as cannabis or ganja, methamphetamine, heroin and opium/morphine from Manipur are also being trafficked via Moreh-Imphal-Kohima-Dimapur route and then to other states using rail route. Located on a transit route for trafficking drugs, the problem of drug epidemic in Nagaland is also one of abundance and availability.

Fast forward to today, ‘prevailing social menace of drug abuse and trafficking of pharmaceuticals in the State’ has obligated the Government of Nagaland to issue notifications restricting the sales, distribution and stocking of selected listed category of drugs in any formulation, irrespective of its dosage forms, within the State of Nagaland with the terms and conditions as laid down. Interesting to note, from the date of announcement of General Elections to the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly till February 3, various enforcement agencies, both central and State have been actively making arrest of several people in possession of drugs and other illicit items. As on February 3 last, the monetary value of the Progressive Seizure of drugs along was reportedly Rs 217717800 (Over 21 crore). The drugs/narcotics seized items include brown sugar, SP capsule and Sunflower (drug).

The re-emergence of drug abuse among the younger generation has caught the State once again, almost unaware. The apprehension is that the current trend could trigger a scenario similar to the 80s & 90s when Nagaland was in the grip of drug culture especially among the youths. With no alternatives, the location of the State will stay static. However, as experts on this subject suggests ‘holistic approach and appropriate strategies need to be developed and implemented towards prevention, treatment and social reintegration.’ While appealing upon the government to make policies and programmes that promote drug use prevention for young people, it might make sense for the state policy makers and bureaucrats to revisit the Nagaland State Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Policy, 2016, taking into consideration the process of drug trafficking, supply and demand, abuse prevention and treatment services, and repercussion. In other words, the suggestion is to make it a ‘progressive realisation policy.’  

Many families still live in the memory of losing a loved one to drug addiction during the 70s, 80s and 90s wave. The fear and distress should not just be for the Government and its mechanisms to deal with; it is the collective responsibility of every unit that weaves into the life of a person – family, friends, educational institutes, Church and community. For a long time, society largely believed that addiction resulted from weak morals and has befallen upon the person and families due to a “curse” or “indignity.” Such dehumanising approach did no good in the past and will not at any point of time. Enabling will happen only with courage to accept, enlighten and empower the substance users and their families with committing to get the right help.

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