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International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking: How to tackle the problem head on

Today is the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and the significance of the day has never been greater. Drug abuse has reached alarming proportions and needs to be handled on a war footing.

Drug abuse is rampant all over the world with cocaine, cannabis, hallucinogens, opiates and sedative hypnotics being the most popular. Addressing the problem, on December 1987, the United Nations passed a resolution to observe 26 June as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. This was done to inspire action and cooperation by all to realise a global society free of drug abuse. This endeavour is supported by many individuals, communities and organisations round the world.

The theme for this year's International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is 'Health for Justice. Justice for Health.' This underlines the importance of both healthcare and the judicial system in addressing drug problems. The choice of this theme also underlines the importance of a holistic approach to the problems involving the active participation of health, human rights, criminal justice and social service institutions.

INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST DRUG ABUSE: SECRETARY GENERAL'S MESSAGE

The Secretary General of the United Nations, in his message on the occasion of International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, says, "This year's International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is an opportunity to highlight the importance of addressing these twin threats through the rule of law and the provision of health services." He goes on to say, "These measures are critical, because drug use, at its core, is a health issue. Drug dependence is a disease, not a crime. The real criminals are the drug traffickers."

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HOW TO IDENTIFY DRUG ABUSE

Watch out for sudden changes in personality and behaviour. Mood swings, changes in sleep habits, withdrawal from family members, loss of interest in hobbies and previously enjoyed activities as well as unsatisfactory performance at school or work are all signs of a drug problem. Physical signs can manifest as a lack of energy, red and glassy looking eyes and a runny nose. Other warning signs are a careless appearance, lack of interest in personal hygiene and excessive spending. Unexplained needle marks on arms can also indicate drug abuse. Keep an eye open for any or some of these conditions and you will be able to identify and the help in its treatment immediately.

EFFECTS OF DRUG ABUSE

Drug abuse can lead to several short and long-term health complications. It can be minor problems like nausea, weight loss and general weakness. But most of the complications are serious and can even be fatal. It weakens the immune system and increases the risk of infection. In fact, this is one of the leading causes of mortality among addicts. It causes cardiovascular problems, lung disease and liver damage. It can also cause seizures, stroke and even brain damage.

An addict often struggles with his memory and has attention and decision-making problems. Drug abuse induces feeling of paranoia, hallucinations and impaired judgement. An addict may have trouble controlling their impulses and exhibit violent and aggressive behaviour.

The effects of drug abuse and drug dependence are long lasting and can be emotionally draining for people who are close to the addict. It can break families and relationships. According to the Gateway Foundation, it affects more than 7 million people and one in four death are drug abuse related.

HOW TO HELP A DRUG ADDICT

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addictions are complex and chronic diseases. This requires medical intervention. But being there for the person, talking to him and advising him on seeking help can act as motivation. Here, on the occasion of International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, we list a few ways in which you can help a friend of relative struggling with drug abuse.

Avoid being preachy and never use threatening language when talking to an addict. Also, don't become emotional while discussing things. It can backfire and undermine your efforts. And, please don't argue with them. They are not in a state of mind to understand your feelings. Just be the stronger person here.

Address the problem

Try to understand the extent of the problem. If it is severe, ie, there is total dependence on drugs, find a trained and qualified professional. Don't try to do it yourself.

Talk

Talking helps. The person might be scared of seeking help or going to rehab. Address the fears and insecurity. Discuss the pros and cons of seeking help. Talk him through his problems.

Educate yourself about treatment options

Explore all the available treatment options. Collect as much information as possible. This will enable you to direct your loved one along the right path to rehabilitation. Talk to a health professional about all the options and take help when it comes to choosing the right option.

Learn everything there is to know about addiction

You have to know everything about drug abuse if you wish to help a victim of this condition. You might not even realise that someone is addicted. Read up on it, talk to friends about it, go online, speak to health professionals. It will help you.

Be supportive

Be supportive and understanding. Show it with words and action. This will make an addict realise you love them and want the best for them. You must try and be there for them whenever they need you.

Be persistent

Often an addict will try and get out of any situation where they have to acknowledge their problem. Don't give up and keep encouraging them to seek help and soon you will see the fruits of your effort.

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