E-Pao! Drug Awareness Education - International Drug Users' Day Observation

International Drug Users' Day Observation
- Youth makes the difference -

Prithiviraj N *

Why we observed International drug user’s day in our State?

The overall purpose of the International drug users day observation is to ensure that every drug user will get the opportunities to share their view points regardless of sex, creed, cast and religion and discuss the issue among the drug users and bring up a common platform and approach to the leaders and decision makers to deliver on their implementation of program for drug users, so that it can bring a meaningful result in access to Treatment, Care, Support and Prevention services.

As in many other countries, the use of drugs itself is not an offence in the Netherland, users of hard drugs are regarded as patients rather then criminals. Accordingly, a comprehensive, different set of preventive measures and care facilities has been established. The judicial authority have always followed the principle that drug addicts should have medical treatment rather then serve a custodial sentence.

Despite the sometimes disappointing results of treatment and/or the recidivism that occurs, this standpoint has been firmly adhered to and new ways of putting it into practice have constantly been sought. (abstract from drug policy of Netherland, 1972) On the fateful day of 1st Nov 1996, Zaandam, the Netherlands drug users group called Landelijk Steunpunt Druggebruikers (LSD) first observed the International drug users day as a part of bringing ownership among the drug users community.

The first event was held at Utrecht (Netherland), First it was mainly ‘national’ events for Dutch users, with the support from Dutch Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports and offering drug users the opportunity to meet and discuss topics of mutual interest with social workers, politicians and others professionals.

Drug users counted these days as very valuable - and not just because it is possible to use drugs here! At least for one day in the year, there are no people looking at drug users with disdain, and one feels accepted as a ‘human being’, so to speak. Not surprisingly, this annual Drug Users day is now well known amongst both drug users and drug workers in every corner of the country.

You & I Network

Why we target on youths: It is a well known saying that youths are the pillars of the Nation and the logic applies the same for the drug users in Manipur also, because majority of the drug users are in the age of 19 to 35 which is a very potential and energetic stages. Curiosity is something which strike in the minds of this ages, without knowing or knowing the harmful consequences.

No matter, we can’t hide the realities that the first detection of HIV in the State of Manipur is from Injecting drug users in the year Feb, 1990. It is increasing alarmingly in such a small population of 2.4 million and among them 27,240 are HIV positive, (MSACS July, 2007) and for this we got to go to the main driving force of our society i.e. the school going higher secondary students, when they enter adulthood, if we can stop them right here…………

Guess what! There will be reduction in population of drug users in the society in future. Unknowingly or knowingly, may be due to curiosity or may be due to influence of some peer pressure they might get into this habit very quickly and harm himself. Its a very delicate phase for their life as well as for the future of the State of Manipur.

This very curiosity and pressure will turn their life into hell and eventually lead to death. It begins from small things like tobacco, gutka, paan, khaini etc and ultimately leading to harder ones and then falling prey to addiction when it is very difficult to turn back and rectify things around.

Hence it is urgently required to stop them right here in the root level for a better society in near future. This can only be done with the help of our awareness program which is going to be held targeting the schools and campaigning right with them and imparting the values and the good things that he/she can have in future staying away from drugs.

Why we used the theme: “Youth make’s the difference”

As with past World International drug users day observation You and I Network has been observing 1st November from 2003, since this Network is campaigning the users day observation with different theme for every year, this year we select this theme because we realized that youth are very important in bring out the differences in the society, here our “difference” is that it bring positive view point amongst the youth in the State of Manipur.

As we all know that majority of the drug users are below the ages of 35 yrs. And it is a matter of concern and bring them out and have a discussion. It is a fact that youth need something to do with their addiction and want different option to quit drugs in order to bring an understanding among the young drug users it needs interaction and sharing of view points about youth drug users issues in the State of Manipur, and bring them into a platform where they can share, care & understand addiction.

The principle behind all the work of the International drug user’s day observation is to Campaign at the local context and should underpin all global campaigning efforts. Whatever messages are most appropriate for drug user’s community at large, campaigning work can be promoted among the users with the meaningful message.

The theme of “youth make’s the differences” offers a vehicle for uniting efforts among the young drug users within a common goal. International drug users’ day observation for the State of Manipur have a number of campaigning functions, including:

  • Advocacy for enabling environment between the users and the general community.
  • To organise a Mass campaign among the youths.
  • To organize State level workshops, seminars, event, convention and social services etc.
  • To promote in the media regarding the International drug users’ day to the general population and the decision makers of Government agencies
The theme for International drug users Day has been assigned to all the global users Network in his or her own languages according to the situation of their concern area, different users Network in the State of Manipur are observing the user’s day by different activities like workshop, mass campaign , events, Music concert, seminars, advocacy, social service, convention and rallies etc…., since 2000. Since that time, the campaign has developed into its current form and now it reaches every drug users.

The observation was accepted by the UN. Till now as a part of the observation many more users are participating across the world to discuss the issue of drug use. YOU & I NETWORK will hold Awareness programmes among the youths on the issues related with drug users on 31st October, 2007 in Imphal east and Imphal west under the theme “Youth make’s the difference”! especially targeting the ongoing higher secondary/ school students in the two major district of Manipur in order to increase support and reduce the harmful consequence among the Drug users Community.
Need to know about NDPS Act.
National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
* Article 47 of the Indian Constitution
* Three Central Acts:
*** Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940
*** The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985
*** The Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988.
  • Punishment is strict under these Acts
  • Punishment of upto 10 years rigorous imprisonment;
  • Fine of Rs. 1 lakh which may go up to Rs. 3 lakhs and higher upon recording of reasons in judgment
  • Persons found to have illegal possession of drugs in a small quantity for personal consumption are covered under section 27 of NDPS Act:
  • Such persons are liable to a punishment up to six months imprisonment or Rs. 10,000 fine or both, which, in respect of hard drugs like heroin or cocaine would be up to one year’s imprisonment or Rs. 20,000 fine or both.
  • Under section 64 A there is immunity from prosecution to addicts volunteering for treatment:
What is small quantity?

Burden of proving that the small quantity was intended for the personal consumption of a person and not for sale or distribution, shall lie on such person. Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India
  • Right against discrimination
  • Right against exploitation
  • Equality of opportunity in employment
Equal protection of the law and equality before the law

Right to Freedom
  • Freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India
  • Freedom to form associations and unions and assemble peacefully without arms
  • Freedom to reside and settle in any part of India
  • Freedom to practice any profession or carry out any trade, occupation of business
  • Freedom of speech and expression
Right to Life & Personal Liberty
  • Right to health including the right to medical treatment
  • Right to live life with dignity
  • Right to Education
  • Right to marriage and parenthood
  • Right to privacy and confidentiality
  • Right against illegal detention or surveillance
Rights in medical treatment
  • Right to confidentiality
  • Right to protection of identity
  • Right to equal medical treatment

But at the same time it is also our duties to prevent crime related to drug use and impart the consequence of drug use to the youngster who is not introduced in drug once in their life time and to those who are in the gate way of drug so that they are safe from the consequences of drug use and to participate in social development work of the society at large.

Ten Important Key Messages of Prevention from drug use. (Users’ perspective).

1. Keep the door closed. Say ‘No Thanks’
Do not open the door to any kind of drug or substance use. Drugs are unhealthy for you, and can adversely affect your family, your friends and the society. When offered please say ‘No Thanks’ and feel good about it. Experimenting can be dangerous and a drug habit, once initiated, may continue.

2. Make the right choice. Say ‘I decide, I won’t take drugs’
Life is full of choices. Making the right choice is important. So, when making your choice, don’t choose substances like alcohol or drugs that can ruin your health, your family and your future. You may feel pressurised by your friends, peers, relatives and circumstances, but the decision to hold out against this pressure, is yours alone. You decide that you will not take drugs.

3. There is nothing “cool” about doing drugs, most people don’t
There is nothing “cool” about taking drugs. Many people, who take drugs, are eventually left without any friends and social support. Instead of gaining popularity they find themselves leading a life of complete loneliness.

4. Avoid Gateway drugs like alcohol and tobacco. They may lead to other drugs
Avoid substances such as Alcohol (beer, wine, whisky etc) and Tobacco (cigarettes, gutka, chewing tobacco etc) which are also drugs. Apart from being harmful to health they can lead to the use of other drugs like solvents, cannabis, heroin etc.

5. You often don’t know when you get addicted. So don’t experiment.
Nobody uses drugs in order to become dependent on them. Drug addiction is a progressive illness and you often don’t know when you get addicted. You may begin by experimenting to feel good, to belong, to de-stress or feel more mature. People may sometimes feel that they are in control of their drug habit. But in reality, they are not. If you value your independence, don’t allow yourself to become dependent on drugs.

6. When you feel low, look for healthy activities, not drugs
When you are feeling low or are emotionally upset, indulge in activities that keep your mind positively engaged. Or share your feelings with someone who can guide you correctly instead of offering you drugs. Taking drugs never improves the situation that you wanted to escape from in the first place. Instead it only prevents you from seeking solutions.

7. Drug use may lead to unprotected sex and expose you to HIV
Using alcohol or other drugs, clouds your judgement and may lead to unwanted or unsafe sexual activity. You may become reckless and drop your inhibitions. You may seek sexual pleasures which are unprotected because of a lack of will. So, even when you are aware of the dangers of HIV/AIDS and the merits of the condom, you may be exposed to HIV.

8. Drug users frequently relapse. Hence prevention is better than cure.
Prevention is much less expensive than treatment. Though treatment works, the success rate for complete recovery is low. Four out of five people, who go in for treatment, on average, relapse into using drugs again. Once you get dependent on drugs, it becomes very difficult to kick the habit. So stay away from drugs and save yourself further problems.

9. Don’t stigmatize drug users. Only proper medical and emotional support will help.
Drug addiction is like any other disease that needs proper medical care. A drug user must be taken to a detoxification and rehabilitation centre. Treatment works but it takes time, patience, spiritual, emotional and physical strength on the part of the users and care givers. Family support at this time can make or break the recovery. Any attempt to stigmatize and discriminate against the drug user can only make matters worse. If you know someone who is using drugs, guide him to the nearest treatment centre.

10. Talk about drugs. Don’t brush the issue under the carpet.
Parents, teachers and elders should learn more about drugs and their consequences themselves. They should discuss issues around drugs openly, frankly and in a non judgmental way, in family, school and other community settings. Get more elders, icons and community leaders, who can be good role models, to talk openly on the issue.

* Prithiviraj N wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on 22nd November 2007.

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