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THE spending of Tk 170,000,000,000 is surely an amount astounding enough to create a sense of serenity in one's mind when it is spent for national development. But this spending has come as a shocking revelation for the nation, as a government body informed us that the drug addicts in the country spend Tk 17,000 crore annually on drugs.

Yes, the director general of the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), while observing the international day against drug abuse and the illegal drug trade on June 26, informed the journalists that, 46 lakh drug addicts in the country spend at least Tk 46 crore every day on drugs. Calculating on these figures the annual expenditure on drug stands at Tk 17,000 crore, which is nearly three percent of our GDP and 17 percent of the total outlay of our national budget for the fiscal year 2008-09.

Drugs such as yaba, heroin, marijuana, and cocaine have been sucking a large segment of our young populace into their fatal grip. The number of young drug addicts is on an alarming increase in and around the capital as well as in other places in the country as the criminals run the illicit drug trade under the very nose of law enforcers. This illicit trade has flourished and more than one lakh people are involved in it in the capital alone.

Though the government lacks specific data on the number of drug addicts in the country, Family Health International, a private agency which carried out a survey in 2004, found more than 46 lakh drug addicts in the country. What makes such statistics more startling is that 91 percent of these addicts are the youth.

According to the experts, drugs like yaba, heroin, marijuana, and cocaine are smuggled into Bangladesh from Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Thai government launched massive drive against drug in 2003 and killed more than 3,000 people who were traders and users of the drug. After the crackdown in Thailand, the traders have chosen Bangladesh as an alternative destination for marketing of these deadly drugs.

The concerned authority needs to undertake youth regeneration programs with a view to steer these addicted youngsters back into a normal life through the corrective course of actions. They are really in need of some well-thought-out programs that will shape-up their creative urges and help them to develop their holistic mental outlook.

Bangladesh is now facing an inextricable invasion of destructive drugs like yaba, heroin, marijuana, and cocaine. The teenagers from both the affluent and poor families are getting addicted to these drugs at an alarming rate. Worse still, these youngsters are veering towards increasing level of crimes and violence.

Drug addiction and criminality were earlier confined to the youths from poor and under-privileged backgrounds. Now we have the reverse scenario. Affluence gained quickly is often dotted with faults that comeback to haunt us, is an old saying that we find today among the upper class families, where the children are often turning to be addicts and criminals.

Crime and drug abuse often go hand in hand affecting the balance of the society. The society is likely to run off-balance if we could not prevent the prevalence of drugs. It is practically impossible to accomplish this uphill task through sporadic efforts. The DNC which is running with only 914 staffs is quite incapable to contain the spread of drug abuse. The law enforcers must gear up their actions to protect the society from the dire consequence of drug abuse.

Drug abuse and trafficking is a major global problem. But the problem has not been recognised by many countries in its right perspective. Obviously the drug menace cannot be contained by Bangladesh's effort alone. It requires a regional approach. Therefore, the countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan need to join hands to fight against the drug menace.

According to a recent study by the UN, at least 114 countries across the world are now experiencing HIV/Aids transmission among the injecting drug users (IDUs). The countries include China (3.5 million IDUs), Indonesia (one million), India (500,000), Myanmar (250,000), Thailand (250,000), and Pakistan (180,000) and are facing an enormous threat of spreading HIV/Aids virus among the IDUs which accounts for more than 60 percent of all HIV/Aids infections.

Bangladesh with more than 25,000 IDUs is also exposed to the HIV/Aids transmission among the IDUs. A recent ICDDRB study revealed that about 10.5 percent IDUs in an area in the capital have been afflicted with the HIV virus. We are horrified to note that huge numbers of individuals, who are already into drug abuse, are likely to be afflicted with HIV/Aids virus because of sharing of needles for injecting drugs.

The drug menace is taking a heavy toll on the whole society and destabilising many families. How wretchedly drug addiction destabilises a family can be perceived from a recent incident of the killing of an addicted son by his mother. The nation must be rid of the curse of drug abuse which is corroding all our social values and affecting national development.

The parents, teachers, and social reformers must not avoid their responsibility to start a social movement to raise public awareness against drug addiction. Public awareness is the most effective weapon to fight against this social malaise. Pressure should also be created on the government to improve the logistics when the addicts want to return to normal life. They will be end-up with wrecked lives if we fail to help them to find way back again.

A.N.M. Nurul Haque is a columnist of The Daily Star.

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