Awareness and Education for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Alcoholism in India

Few of the Village Level Activities Photographs from Punjab

New Delhi, Jan 15, 2013 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) Drug and alcohol dependency is not just a problem of an individual but also a family, socio- cultural, health, political and developmental issue. If unchecked, would exacerbate poverty and could be a potential threat to National security, economic growth & development, healthy human resources and well being of a nation.

The National Survey Report, 2004 reported that in India about 73.2 million persons were alcohol, and drugs abusers. The States like Manipur and Punjab due to their proximity to porous international drug trafficking zones called ‘Golden Triangle’ and ‘Golden Crescent,’ respectively are at an advanced stage of the problem. They have become destinations of drug traffickers, abusers, alcoholism and home to the problems of injecting drugs & related HIV, insurgency, terrorism and political unrest.

Surveys and researches in Punjab revealed that 67% of the rural households have one drug or alcohol addict; 70% of young men were hooked on drugs or alcohol; every third male and every tenth female student has taken drugs on one pretext or the other and seven out of ten college-going students, abuse one or other form of drug.

In Manipur it has been estimated that there are about 45,000-50,000 drug addicts, of whom nearly half are injecting drug users. Studies revealed that 12 per cent of drug addicts in the age group till 15 years, 31.32 per cent in the age group of 16-25 years and 55.88 percent in the age group of 25-35 years.

The upward trend of substance abuse is a signal towards the crippling of the society in general and the young people (adolescents and youth) in particular; who are primarily exposed owing to their age to vulnerability, peer pressure and nature of experimentation. In such a situation, the young people and their families form one of the most affected groups.

Nonetheless, the substance abuse problem, unlike HIV infection and AIDS, is non-communicable, preventable and can be reversed to normalcy at a given stage of dependency, through a set of combined efforts viz. awareness, prevention education, motivation, support and access to services.

Against the above backdrop, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) an autonomous body of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, implemented a yearlong pilot project, entitled “Awareness and Education for the Prevention of Drug Abuse & Alcoholism”, with the financial support of Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (MoSJ&E). The project was implemented in 3000 villages under 75 Blocks of 10 districts in Punjab and 750 villages under 25 Blocks in 7 districts in Manipur.

The project specifically focussed on adolescents and youth, high risk and vulnerable groups as well as their family and community members on one hand and mobilized support and partnership of variety of stakeholders viz. village based NYKS youth clubs, women groups, gram panchayats, local political and religious leaders, village influencers and service providers on the other hand, for addressing drugs and alcohol dependency, collectively.

The principle objective of the project was to generate awareness, educate target audiences and stakeholders about the consequences and impact of alcohol and drug dependency and methods of prevention as well as need of professional help to treat dependency to lead a healthy and meaningful life.

Before actual implementation of the project in 3750 targeted villages - Project implementation guidelines, action plan, time line, expected outcome, reporting formats were developed and shared with NYKS field functionaries. Established special District Advisory Committees under the Chairpersonship of Deputy Commissioners for maintaining transparency, seek guidance and support for the successful implementation of the project; selected blocks, youth clubs and villages in each of the targeted districts; prepared district action plans and deployed project functionaries.

It is well established that the success of the project lies on the extent of the capacity building, knowledge and motivational level of the project functionaries.  Therefore, serious efforts were made to impart the best training to the project functionaries at different levels.

For effective implementation, supervision and monitoring of the project activities as well as to act as trainers; 40 field functionaries at State and district level were oriented and trained during two, four days Training cum Media Workshops. During this program, IEC material was also developed in local languages and got printed for distribution during project activities. Similarly, at block level, during four, three days Regional Training Programs, 125 NYKS National Youth Corps volunteers (one volunteer on a cluster of 30 -33 villages) were trained and motivated to spearhead block and village level campaigns and activities.

In order to advocate, share concern and mobilize support of potential partners and key stakeholders in each of the 17 districts, a one day District level Convention of leading NYKS youth clubs and women groups leaders, PRI members, religious and political leaders, heads of District Administration Departments, NGO representatives, parents, teachers, media persons, were organized. Under this program 3400 key stakeholders attended the program.

For ensuring ownership, partnership and leadership of local youth in the process of implementation of project in their respective villages, ten youth club members and leaders from each of the targeted villages were selected in a manner that two of them belong to age group 13-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-35 and above 35 years, respectively with the ratio of 70% male and 30 % female. Consequently, under the project a total of 37,500 NYKS local villages’ youth clubs leaders were selected, imparted training at Block Level and enhanced their capacities to undertake Personal Contact and Peer Education Program and local village level activities, voluntarily.

The trained and motivated NYKS youth club leaders and National Youth Corps volunteers formed 3,750 Village Advisory Committees under the Chairpersonship of Gram Panchayat Pradhans; discussed the current situation, project objectives, expected outcome, developed village broad implementation plans, activities and also ensured that such meetings are held regularly. This process helped building an enabling environment, mobilizing local youth leaders, women groups, political and religious leaders, family and community members - support, partnership and action for project activities at village level.

Each one of the 37,500 trained local village youth club members under Personal Contact and Peer Education Program, reached and educated a minimum of four persons in her/his age groups, shared key primary prevention messages, provided referrals of available counselling and de-addiction services, removed misconceptions, filled gaps in their level of awareness & knowledge and provided IEC material developed under the Media Workshop and procured locally. A commitment was also taken from the contacted persons that ‘I Decide - I will not take drugs/alcohol and help others to refrain’.

Under this activity a total of 3,75,000 young people were contacted and this exercise also helped in identification of 62,654 persons who were either drug or alcohol addicts.

Being pilot project, only 680 addicts could be provided opportunity for free treatment and counselling services under seventeen, district level 15 days camps. However, the larger issue remains in the State of Punjab and Manipur that there is also the lack of adequate facilities for treatment, care & support for People dependent on Drugs and Alcohol.

Besides, time tested, cost effective and popular 6,05,664 village level activities for mass awareness generation, mobilization, dissemination of information, education and motivation among village communities were organized for addressing drug abuse and alcoholism and their consequences.

Village level activities included, focus group discussions with young people; open forum discussion on epidemic of drug abuse and alcoholism; Lectures by experts, focus group discussions and meetings with  political & religious leaders, parents and teachers - mobilizing support;  telling stories and case studies on overcoming and refraining from drug abuse and alcoholism; theme based songs; rallies; yoga; oath taking ceremonies; public lectures; wall writing and poster campaigning; street plays and cultural programmes; painting competitions in schools and villages; slogan, easy writing competitions related to drug abuse and alcoholism in schools and villages; special awareness drive on important days, peer education activities, identification of addicts/families and vulnerable target groups; counselling of addicts by local experts; coping up with the addicts and pursuing them to attend de-addiction camps.

Through these activities the benefit reached to 1,17,02,740 persons (65,26,956 males and 51,75,784 females) of 3,750 villages in 17  districts from the State of Punjab and Manipur. It may be appreciated that a person has attended either one or multiple activities in their respective villages, hence the actual number of beneficiaries would be slightly less than the cumulative activities wise number of beneficiaries mentioned above.

The news of the project activities appeared more than one thousand times in leading News Papers for example, Danik Bhaskar, Ajit, Punjab Kesari, Danik Jagran, Indian, Desh Sewak, Punjab Jagran, Kapurthala Kesari, The Tribune, Punjabi Tribune, Jag Bani,  Nawan Jamana, in Punjab and The Sanghai Express, Poknapham Daily News, Naharolgee Thoudang Daily News, Gosham News, Manipur Express, etc from Manipur.

It was experienced that this massive social mobilization, ownership of the program, youth voluntarism, all round participation, cost effective implementation (rupees three per person only) and opening up of the drug dependency and alcoholism epidemic was primarily because of the following reasons:

  • Highest level of political and bureaucratic will, support, regular dialogue, follow up; recognition and appreciation for the works being undertaken at different levels
  • Deputy Commissioners, Head of Social Welfare Departments, Red Cross Society and local NGOs run de-addiction centres active administrative, expert and technical support
  • Local faith based organizations, religious and political leaders, Village Advisory Committees headed by Gram Panchyat Pradhans support, facilitated in building a sustained enabling environment, opening up the epidemic, social mobilization, guidance & implementation of the project activities
  • Families, parents, especially the women who seemed to be the most affected by the menace came forward with curiosity to help and facilitate any initiative voluntarily
  • Developed trained cadre of NYKS village based youth clubs leaders assumed leadership and trained Peer Educators voluntary services in their respective villages were one of the major contributory factors towards the local resource mobilization & cost effective implementation with maximum outreach
  • Village communities while understanding and realizing that drugs dependency and alcoholism is their own social problem helped in opening up the addicts, removed stigma and encouraged them to come forward to seek counseling and medical help.

The initial outcomes of the pilot project of less than a year are socially and politically relevant and useful. However, the enabling environment and social mass movement so generated for addressing drugs and alcohol dependency, needs to be sustained and become a way of life among the people. It can be achieved through dedicated follow-up programmes in the implemented project’s villages.

In view of the findings of National Survey Report, 2004, the need for a National Prevention Programme cannot be denied. Adding the experiences gained from other best practices and researches, it is just to replicate the gains from this initiative and Model in rest of the country, so as to turn it into a massive National Peoples’ Movement.

- PIB Feature, with Inputs from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports