Drugs and drug users on the increase

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By 2017-12-17

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan

Narcotics-related arrests in the year 2016 were 390 per 100,000 of the population, the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB) revealed, in its latest 2017 handbook.

A startling revelation was that 60 per cent of the arrests were connected to cannabis while 35 per cent were related to heroin last year, according to the handbook.

There was also an astonishing 59 per cent increase in drug addicts sent for treatment in 2016 compared to the 1,484 under treatment in 2015.

The handbook revealed that most of the drug related arrests had been reported from the Western Province (60%) , Southern Province (9%) and Central Province (10%) .

The NDDCB also noted that last year, on a monthly basis, the total drug related arrests stood at 43% from the Colombo District, 13% from Gampaha District and 4% from Kurunegala.

The NDDCB, under the Ministry of Law and Order and Southern Development, released the handbook of drug abuse information compiled by Bhadrani Senanayake and Thamara Dharshana recently.

Cannabis has been cultivated in nearly 500 hectares, mainly in the Eastern and North-Eastern and Southern Provinces.

The total number of cannabis addicts had been 47,787 last year. Cannabis related cases had been recorded high with Colombo accounting for 35%, Gampaha 12% and Matara 3%.

The prevalence of cannabis related arrests was 235 per 100,000 of the population in 2016.

On the dangerous drug, heroin, the 2017 handbook noted that the estimated quantity of street level supply of heroin in Sri Lanka is 1,478kg per annum or nearly 4 kilograms per day and this quantity is sufficient for nearly 45,000 heroin dependents, considering their drug use pattern.

Most of heroin is brought into country from India and Pakistan and the drug is mainly smuggled through South India to the Western coast using fishing boats.

In 2016, 206 kg heroin were seized and 27,462 persons were arrested. When compared to 2015, heroin related arrests had been increase by 3% in 2016. The prevalence of heroin related arrests was 135 per 100,000 population last year.

The reported number of addicts treated for drug abuse islandwide was 2,355 in 2016 and among them 826 (35%) were from the treatment centres of the NDDCB. Also, 684 (29 %) were from prisoners diversion scheme of the Department of Prisons, 474 (20%) were from the non-government organizations and 371 (6%) were from Kadakadu Treatment Rehabilitation Centre of the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation. The Majority (51%) of those under treatment were from the Colombo District and 65% of those rehabilitated were aged 30 years and above.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, conducted its official country visit to Sri Lanka that ended last week, pointed out that almost half of those deprived of liberty in the criminal justice system, are there for non-violent crimes, related to drugs and this was a very high percentage!

The team comprising Bermúdez (Mexico, ChairRapporteur), Leigh Toomey (Australia, Vice-Chair) and Elina Steinerte (Latvia,Vice-Chair), were told that 66.9% of those arrested were for the crime of possessing and 33.1% for consuming.

They were also told that rehabilitation camps for the former LTTE cadres have been transformed to rehabilitation camps for drug addicts.

The UN Working Group had observed numerous irregularities in the way the Court Order was obtained for drug offences and addicts.

The Working Group considers that although the two rehabilitation centres benefit from more relaxed rules thana regular prison, they are nevertheless akin to prisons in their organizational scheme (i.e. barbed wire fences surround the centre, heavily armed army personnel in military uniforms patrolling the boundaries, fixed schedules for activities, impossibility to freely move in and out, the obligatory uniforms for the detainees and the rules for family visits).

The Working Group emphasized that the absolute prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of liberty and the safeguards which are in place to guard against such instances, apply to everyone, including those arrested, detained or charged for drug related, offences as well as those undergoing compulsory rehabilitation programmes for drug addicts.

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