SUBSTANCE ABUSE: A major complex issue 

Atono Tsükrü Kense

Much has been said and written on the widespread substance abuse in Nagaland state. However, due to lack of official statistics and data, no one could actually bring out a status report of substance abuse till today. 

The cardinal concern today is the young adolescents who are ensnared and dragged into the abysmal of addiction to various types of fancy drugs which are readily available in the streets. There is also the issue of the ‘hidden and unreached population’– women and young girls who are abusing drugs behind the curtains. 

A medical expert, who has been working with this group of people for years, has described the scenario the State is facing as ‘human crises of chemical abuse.’ Despite this concerning observation, the Nagaland government and its agencies are very passive on this issue, and it remains to be seen that only few NGOs catalysed by recovered drug users are actively working towards addressing this issue. 

Substance abuse is a major complex issue affecting individuals, families and society at large as it has numerous detrimental effects on the health, relationship, social life and overall well being of the users. Substance abuse is not solely an individual problem, as it has severe societal implications impacting socio-economic, socio-political and human rights issue.

Paradoxically, even in the face of high drug users, the Nagaland Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Policy is yet to be implemented which has received Cabinet’s approval on June 26, 2016. 

Over the years, experts and advocates have time and again asserted that the existing policy needs to be immediately amended comprehensively to cover all aspects of prevention, treatment, supply and control etc. 

Addressing substance abuse requires a multifaceted approach involving prevention, education and treatment. Investing in prevention strategies, raising awareness, and providing effective treatment options can mitigate the negative consequences of substance abuse, and help individuals lead healthier and more fulfilling lives. 

The policy should have an all-encompassing spectrum involving government departments like School Education, Youth Resources, Labour, Social Welfare and Health & Family Welfare with their own guidelines and policies towards primary prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration etc.

It also calls for addressing the demand and supply reduction with a robust system of coordinated collective efforts from all stakeholders – state government, village authorities, faith-based organisation, civil society, and non-governmental organisations.

Nagaland Chief Secretary recently stated that despite dealing with this problem for many years, rather than reducing, the problem of drug menace seems to be increasing. He made a call for ‘action’ towards eradication of drug abuse in the state as a public movement. Consequently, holistic approach and appropriate strategies need to be developed and implemented so that prevention, treatment and social reintegration are ensured.

This is a guest editorial by Atono Tsükrü Kense. She is a senior journalist based in Kohima.