DRUG ABUSE – An Often Overshadowed Issue

drugabusePakistan is a country facing numerous social issues and the growing rate of drug abuse is no joke. In the past few years or even decades, drug addiction has been on the rise in Pakistan. This issue is quite often overseen related to other highlighted issues such as poverty, illiteracy, child labor, healthcare, etc.

When we talk about drugs, one more related issue plays its role in the name of smuggling. Most of the drugs in Pakistan are trafficked from Afghanistan, which is also related to the generally accepted roots of the issue that started back in the late 1970s when Afghan refugees were escaping the Soviet invasion, which resulted in Pakistan becoming a major exporter of heroin in the 1980s. A research by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2013 indicated that there are 6.7 million drug abusers in Pakistan including 4.5 million addicts. UNODC also calculated that above 800,000 Pakistanis from the age of 15 to 64 are regular heroin users which have now increased to 3 million people just in a span of 2-3 years as it was revealed last year, in a meeting of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Interior and Anti-Narcotics under the chairmanship of Senator Rehman Malik. It was also pointed out that now 8.9 million people in Pakistan are addicted to drugs on a yearly basis and 35 million are directly affected.

The disappointing results to counter this issue have been interlinked with other major issues which act as barriers like illiteracy, poverty and most importantly corruption. Most of the drug traffickers often escape punishment through giving bribes. Lack of knowledge about the consequences also has an adverse effect on the issue as consumers focus more on the good side without being aware of the harmful effects that they may face. The number of daily deaths because of drug complications is a lot more than deaths caused by terrorism. Around 700 people die daily because of drug-related issues and around 40% of the users are those who use related medicines without prescription. The ease of availability and access plus the drugs being extremely cheap, contributes to the fact that the use of heroin and cannabis is quite high in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s youth is being majorly impacted because of drug abuse which imposes an alarming situation. From school going children to university graduates, the use of drugs is spreading and increasing rapidly year by year. The perception, lack of awareness, peer pressure and number of other factors act as a source of motivation for the use of drugs among the youth. The entertainment industry is also a major source of attraction for the youth as the young minds follow the influence of drugs highlighted in many movies, TV shows, and music. Many also see it as means of coping up with fear and failure. However, even if drugs are providing them these desired aspects, the lack of regard for the painful consequences is what needs to addressed. The suppliers are the ones who are benefiting and becoming wealthier in this illegal business which also may be the major reason for the increase in use of drugs. Moreover in Pakistan, there are no strict regulations on prescriptions of medicines which leads to the ultimate misuse as all these prohibited medicines are easily available in the market.
All the findings indicate that this is an issue that needs to be addressed on a larger scale and should specially be regulated on a consistent basis. The Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) is a body that is contributing in this regard. ANF is not just conducting operation against drug mafia but is also working on community awareness. ANF also has three Rehabilitation Centers in Islamabad, Karachi and Quetta. To work for this cause, consistent government support would be helpful towards minimizing the total number of people being affected by drug abuse. Awareness should be created by involving media to promote the benefits of avoiding drugs with the major focus on the harmful effects and consequences that come by using them. Once there is a social concern on a broader prospect to fight against this life threatening issue and the relative bodies taking serious action to prevent it, then the country would be able to save a number of individuals from being compromised.