PESHAWAR: The rising trend of drug abuse including ice, as commonly referred to, has been playing havoc with the lives of youth since long with little or no check and requires urgent attention of the stakeholders including government institutions, civil society organisations, rights activists, teachers, religious scholars and parents.

According to experts, the ratio of ice usage among KP youth falls at 10.7 per cent compared to 4.3 to 5.4 per cent in other provinces owing to multiple social, economic and psychological factors.

They say that the situation has reached an enormous stage due to non-availability of adequate funds to make sure three prongs strategy-- preventative, treatment and supply cut measures.

The periodic survey of drugs abuse released after every five years by the relevant international organisation based in Islamabad has been pending since 2013. Experts said that 25 to 30 drugs patients turned up at Dost Welfare Foundation, a private facility in Peshawar working for the last 27 years, also included those using crystal methamphetamine.

They said that abuse of ice among youth, both male and female, was ever rising across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and stood equal to the ratio in Afghanistan.

Azazuddin, the focal person for prevention and youth activities working with Dost Welfare Foundation, told this scribe that the foundation was providing a wide range of need-based and rights-based services to its beneficiaries in five thematic areas including drug demand and harm reduction, HIV/ Aids prevention, human rights protection, human resource development and community development.

He said that it had a capacity of more than 500 beds for residential drug addiction and rehabilitation services for adult male, female and children.

The focal person said that over a period of time, DWF had also established a strong referral and coordination linkage with stakeholders including NGOs, government departments, religious scholars and community members, eventually supporting it in extending services to all over the province and patients coming from other parts of the country and neighbouring Afghanistan.

According to UNODC 2013 survey of Pakistan, 6.7 million people in the country used a controlled substance during the previous year while 4.2 million people were drug defendant.

The survey says that drug users in Pakistan constitute 78 per cent men and 22 per cent women. The number of injecting drug users is 43,000. It says that 10.7 per cent people of KP are drug users.

“Today Pakistan in general and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular are in the grip of massive drug addiction, which is especially affecting the young generation adversely,” says the report. According to the report of UNODC and Narcotics Control Division of Pakistan 2013, 10.7 per cent population of KP is abusing hardcore drugs, which is almost double the number of other provinces.

“Despite this alarming and dangerous situation, the public facilities are almost non-existent and private facilities are few and unaffordable for the majority of clients,” says the report.

Rahim Jan, an expert on drugs control, said that the foreign-funded organisations providing quality services in the area were facing funding and sustainability problems. He said that with the global funding for DDR was going down, lack of support from government under public-private partnership had made the functioning very difficult.

Dr Parveen Azeem Khan told this scribe that provincial government during its previous tenure supported DWF through a programme and provided Rs150 million grant-in aid to it for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts and prevention of drug abuse in the provinces.

The programme commenced on November 17, 2014 and concluded in June 2017, successfully achieving the aims and objectives laid down in the PC-1 and memorandum of understanding signed between DWF and social welfare department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Dr Parveen said that later in March 2017, the then chief minister directed the departments concerned to prepare and submit new PC-1 as a non-ADP scheme for a grant-in aid based on the previously approved PC-1. She said that departments concerned were also requested to provide Rs150 million through inter-sectoral re-appropriation due to meagre budgetary resources of the social welfare department, as was done in the previous PC-1.

She said that that DWF in the year 2018 facilitated almost 1,800 drug addicts including adult male, children and 35 females. She said that Colombo Plan-funded projects for rehabilitation of drug addicted children and adults ended on December 31, 2018. “From December 31, 2018, no donor funding is available to support DWE drug demand reduction and harm reduction services. Due to lack of funding and financial support, DWF is operating with limited services for drug addicted people. DWF takes care of 15 to 20 youth and 60 to 70 adult drugs patients in its two rehabilitation centres out of its own resources,” said Dr Parveen.

The director of DFW suggested a few measures to cater to the issue of drugs abuse including primary prevention programmes to be part of the curriculum in schools, seminaries, colleges and multimedia channels, television, radio, newspapers, campaigns, advertisements, workshops, billboards etc.

She also stressed the need for public-private partnership between DDR service providers and government. She said that budgetary allocation should be made in Annual Development Programme for DDR as a support to NGOs etc.

Dr Parveen said that community-based approach and tailored programme for far flung and inaccessible areas should be adopted to curb the menace of drug abuse. She said that involvement and participation of community was also must in treatment processes.

Dr Parveen said that appropriate treatment facilities should be established for children and female drug users. She added that extended gaps between donor project funding should be avoided to maintain a continuum of care and trust of the communities.

“HIV/Aids prevention, VCCT, care and support of positive clients should be integral part of all DDR programs,” she said.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2019