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256,968 drug users in northeast
GUWAHATI/IMPHAL, JUL 7 (IANS):
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Published on 8 Jul. 2010 12:09 AM IST
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Social activists and NGOs say the government needs to curb drug abuse in the northeast, with a report showing that the number of intravenous drug users (IDUs) in the region has doubled in two years.
The number of IDUs in the northeast in 2008 was 120,263, but by April 2010 it stood at 256,968, said a health ministry report released in Assam last month. The scene is worrying even in Assam, as despite not being a high prevalence area, the state neighbours Manipur, a critical area.
“A majority of these drug users are believed to be living with HIV and AIDS. More than half the drug users of the region are in Manipur. This has affected its neighbouring states too,” said the report highlighted in the Assamese newspaper Asomiya Pratidin.
According to the report, 40 percent of the total population in the northeast falls in the age group of 15-30 years.
“The worrying part is that most of them are youngsters,” the report said.
NGOs like ARPAN in Tripura, Aastha in Assam and the Kripa Foundation in Manipur are trying to create awareness among the people but say a lot of government initiative is needed.
According to Ashwini Baruah, chief secretary of Aastha, the worst-affected age group in Assam is 16-22 years.
“With a history of terror in the state, most of the drug users see drugs as an escape route. What they don’t realise is that it is a black hole,” Ashwini Baruah told IANS.
“To create awareness, we organise road campaigns and workshops for youth to make them aware of the ill-effects of drugs and how to escape from it.”
Scenes in hospitals are often heartrending. On June 23, two brothers, Manav and Prasant Baruah, aged 19 and 18 respectively, were admitted to a hospital in Assam with high fever and frothing at the mouth. Three days later, they died. While their parents seemed clueless, hospital sources said they had injected drugs.
“Assam may not be a high prevalence state when it comes to drug abuse right now, but what is worrying is that we are surrounded by Manipur, a very critical state in terms of drug users and HIV and AIDS,” said Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
The minister added that Assam, which is the most populous of the seven states in the northeast and considered as the gateway to the region, has truckers coming from outside. This, to a great extent, may be responsible for bringing drugs like heroine and cocaine to the state, he said.
A member of the North East Health Mission, who did not wish to be named, told IANS: “Once a person is addicted, he is helpless. He does not even hesitate to resort to covert ways to get money and to procure drugs.
“Stealing money from parents and borrowing the same on the pretext of school or college functions are usually seen as common practices. We know the end result.”

 
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