The Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) data shows that the number of patients with drug addiction problems has gone up alarmingly in recent times. As many as 114 patients were taking treatment at public and private rehabilitation centres on average everyday in 2019. The number was 104 in 2018 and 69 in 2017.
In the past five years, at least 90,133 people with drug addiction problems received treatment at five government rehabilitation centres and 53,720 at 324 private facilities. This is indicative of the fact that there has been an alarming rise in drug abuse in the country.
It is also surprising that the number of female drug addicts increased four times in 2019. In 2018, 91 women took treatment at the government facilities while the number rose to 360 in 2019 (from January to November). This further confirms that the number of drug addicts in general increased alarmingly of late.
In May 2018, the country's law enforcers launched a crackdown on drug traders and peddlers. Yet it has not been possible to wipe out the rogue drug traders from the country.
Rather, the number of drug addicts is going up continuously. Drug addiction has become ubiquitous. Illicit drug is showing its sway, defying the law enforcement agencies, from the lanes and by-lanes in cities and towns to remotest corner of rural Bangladesh. Even the 'zero tolerance to drug' measures did not work to halt the ongoing march of drug trade and addition.
And, unfortunately, our youths are falling victims to all-rapacious aggression of drugs. Among the factors that lead people to drug addiction are inability to cope with failure in an atmosphere of unusual competition, social unrest, tension, boredom, loneliness, and changing family structure.
However, the key reason behind the rise in the number of drug addicts is easy availability of narcotics. Nowadays anyone can buy drugs sitting at home by placing an order over phone or online. Such availability and use of narcotic substance called yaba is crippling the country's youth force.
As Myanmar did not keep its promise, yaba trafficking has not yet halted. On different occasions, Myanmar, major sourcing country of yaba production, pledged that it would take steps to stop yaba trafficking. But it has not yet taken visible actions against yaba traders.
In this context, a total war has to be waged against drug barons who are working behind the drug smuggling. This is necessary because narcotics are a major threat to our youth force.
As drug dons care little about social ostracism, they form a powerful class by themselves and dominate society. This they do by using their massive wealth, influence and power. All the people involved in drug trade chain must be brought to book. Moreover, drug addicts have to be properly rehabilitated by providing them with proper treatment.
There is no rehabilitation centres in 23 districts yet. Initiatives need to be taken to set up facilities for treatment of drug addicts in those districts and motivate the youth to avoid drug and build better life. Of course, a genuine crackdown needs to be launched to catch and try drug traders and their godfathers across the country to weed out this menace.
Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled is a retired Professor of Economics and Vice Principal at Cumilla Women's Government College, Cumilla.