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Wrong to treat drug users as criminals, says local body

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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, June 15: The Meghalaya Users’ Forum (MUF) on Saturday said the criminalisation of drug users is not a solution.
MUF general secretary, Barry Leslie Kharmalki told a section of reporters that it is wrong to declare the fight against drugs as a war on drug addicts.
“It is not easy to deal with a complex issue like drug addiction,” he said.
He said many parents expressed their disappointment after their children, addicted to drugs, were defamed.
Kharmalki said the MUF assured the parents that they would appeal to the media not to look at drug addiction negatively.
“Addiction is not always about negativity. I have seen positive energy among some of the reformed drug addicts,” he said.
He said aggressive drive against drug users is a short-term solution that does not yield positive results. He cited the example of the Polo area where the youths went back to using drugs after an aggressive crackdown.
According to Kharmalki, the long-term solution to the drug menace is to treat drug addicts with love and not brute force as the latter would harden them instead of healing them.
“We have seen how society hates drug addiction. But I would like to clarify that drug addiction is a disease and not a crime,” he said.
He expressed concern over the mushrooming of rehabilitation centres since the state government announced the DREAM (Drug Reduction, Elimination, and Action Mission) project.
“There are no proper guidelines to set up a rehabilitation centre. We are not sure how the treatment and counselling provided in these new rehabilitation centres will help,” he said, questioning the decision to send the addicts to a rehabilitation centre outside the state.
He pointed out that the lack of proper counselling and support from society made many youths become addicts again after coming out of rehabilitation centres. “There is a need to have a plan for reintegrating such youth into the mainstream,” he said.
Kharmalki said huge money is needed to buy drugs and the treatment of addicts is expensive. “We urge the government to speed up the process of setting up rehabilitation centres offering free treatment,” he added.

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