Free availability of drugs in an illicit market is one of the main reasons for the increase in narcotic offences in Sri Lanka, according to anti-narcotics organisations and prison officials.
Narcotic offences account for 35.2% of prison admissions, followed by excise offences, which is 25.6%, according to the latest report of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB).
“A large number of inmates are involved in drug-related activities,” said Prisons Commissioner General V.R. de Silva. He cited a recent arrest of a woman and a man in Thotalanga from whom police seized 80 kg of drugs.
Drug abuse is misuse of narcotics and also pharmaceuticals in a context where it is not required as a substitute for drugs.
Cannabis is the most prevalent drug available in the market, followed by heroin, hashish and opium, with smoking being the common method of inhaling, according to the NDDCB.
The commissioner said curbing drug abuse is difficult due to the abundant availability of narcotics in the market. “When you are offered something, you are tempted to take it. When it is not there, you won’t go for it.”
He also blamed the country’s unemployment rate. “When people don’t have anything to do, they turn to drugs.” Mr. Silva pointed out that most of the drug users are between the ages of 30 and 45.
He said that young users have also been identified. “About 400 youngsters have been accommodated in a camp at Weerawila, where the rehabilitation programme is monitored by the NDDCB,” he added.
“I can’t tell you what the results are, as the programme started only in March,” Mr. Silva told the Sunday Times. He stressed that the inflow of drugs into the country should be arrested to put an end to drug abuse.
On account of International Day against Drug Abuse (June 26), the NDDCB is holding a symposium at the Centre for Banking Studies, Rajagiriya on the theme “Drug issue and the current situation in Sri Lanka”.
“The NDDCB focuses on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation,” said Chairperson Leisha De Silva Chandrasena. It has five rehabilitation centres located in Galle, Colombo, Gampaha, Kandy and Piliyandala.
“We are trying to do as much as possible. There has to be a focus on it (tackling drug abuse). After all, we have been in a war situation for 30 years,” said Mrs. Chandrasena.
Sri Lanka Anti-Narcotics Association Director Darshinie Guniyangoda said the quota of cannabis and opium allotted for ayurvedic medication is sometimes subject to misuse, adding the centres should monitor the sale of pills.
However, the Prisons Commissioner said the centres would not misuse it. “It is the illicit drug dealers who are responsible. This is why you find people becoming multi-millionaires overnight,” he said.