Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Losing war on drugs

Whether or not the situation in Manipur had hastened the setting up of Nagaland’s first HIV-1 Viral Load Laboratory, launched at Naga Hospital Authority Kohima (NHAK) on Monday; the development will provide a big boost towards ensuring better treatment and care for the People Living with HIV (PLHIV) community. Earlier before Manipur degenerated into chaos due to ethnic violence, Viral Load samples used to be sent to RIMS, Imphal. With the first HIV-1 Viral Load Laboratory being set up in the state, PLHIV community in the state can look ahead with bigger hope. According to an official source, Nagaland has approximately 12,290 PLHIV, under treatment and many of who were unreached and untested. Besides having the second highest HIV positive prevalence in the country, Nagaland also has highest Antenatal Care in India. Against the backdrop of growing use of illicit and psychotropic drugs in Nagaland and on International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, there is need to heighten awareness programmes. Across India, the problem is growing at a phenomenal rate. States in the north east region, particularly Manipur, had earned a dubious distinction of having a very huge number of IDUs and also the highest ratio of HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country. The number of drug users are growing because trafficking has also grown. Today the threat posed on young children at medium primary school is all too real and this rings an alarm bell about an impending nightmare in the region. Most shocking is the revelation and as published in this newspaper, that teen aged school children and minors as young as 10 are using drugs. This only exposes how dangerous the situation has become. Drug addiction among many young children in districts close to the Indo-Myanmar border is widespread. In some towns near the Myanmar border, hundreds of children are getting addicted to ‘sun flower’ that is easily available. The danger point has already been reached and it calls for an urgent holistic approach to prevent the loss of the future generation. Nearly seven per cent of the population in Mizoram, consume opioids, followed by Nagaland (6.5 per cent), Arunachal Pradesh (5.7 per cent) and Sikkim (5.1 per cent), according to the AIIMS report. Opioids are a broad group of pain-relieving drugs supposed to be used under strict medical supervision. Unchecked use of opiods has serious health implications. The magnitude of the quantity of drugs especially heroin, prove that the north east region is a major transit zone of trafficking of various illicit drugs and heroin. Almost 80 per cent of the world’s production originate from the “Golden Crescent” and the “Golden Triangle” area, now called “Golden Pentagon” with the induction of Vietnam-Cambodia and Nagaland-Manipur in Northeast India. The smuggling route is anywhere from the porous border between Myanmar and Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram etc. Drug seizures by police at Dimapur and mostly at nearby Karbi Anglong indicate that trafficking is going on at a huge scale unimaginable till a few years back. Drug abuse and trafficking have spread worldwide and enforcement has not been able to keep pace with the level of sophistication of traffickers. International drug agencies are confronted with various problems of corruption at the lower levels and this is the biggest challenge yet to be tackled.

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