G. Anand

Measures to improve functioning of narcotic cells

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State police will soon launch an enforcement and awareness programme to insulate educational institutions from the menace of narcotic drugs.

Arun Kumar Sinha, Inspector-General of Police, South Zone, said the police would enlist the services of teachers, parents, psychiatrists and welfare agencies for the programme. The police will provide accurate information to students on the harmful effects of narcotic substances. Students and teachers will be

advised to recognise symptoms of drug abuse. "They will also be told about the services available in society, including those rendered by the police, to deal with the drug menace," he said.

The police would put in place a drug abuse monitoring system by drawing information from hospitals, college campuses, treatment centres, welfare agencies and other sources. The data would help in streamlining intervention strategies. The police are also preparing a list of persons involved in drug cases for keeping a tab on their activities. Steps would be taken to improve the functioning of Narcotic Cells in nine police districts, including Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.

In the last two weeks, the South Zone police arrested 37 persons on drug charges. Nearly 22 kg. of ganja, scores of vials of injectable drugs containing synthetic opiates and a small quantity of brown sugar were seized in connection with the arrests.

The IG said Kerala with its long coastline was a transhipment point for drugs, mainly heroin. In the past three years, the Narcotic Control Bureau alone seized nearly 60.4 kg. of heroin in Kerala. The seizures accounted only for a fraction of the actual quantity of heroin smuggled through Kerala to Sri Lanka and the Gulf. A small quantity of heroin sourced from opium-producing areas in Afghanistan and North India is peddled in the State for funding the smuggling operations. Collecting intelligence on gangs dealing with narcotic substances was high on the agenda of the police.

Deaths reported

The IG said deaths due to drug overdose have been reported from Varkala, Kovalam and Kochi. In 2004, two foreign nationals had died after heroin overdose in a lodge at a Varkala beach resort.

A random survey on drug abuse by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had found that injecting drugs, including heroin in diluted form and pharmaceutical products containing addictive substances such as synthetic opiates, was as high as 67 per cent in Thiruvananthapuram. The survey said the average age of initiation into "injecting drug abuse" (IDU) varied between 15 and 28 in the country, with "Thiruvananthapuram at the low end and Jamshedpur and Kolkota at the higher end." The study said cannabis was the "most common first drug of abuse" with a share of 40 per cent followed by alcohol (33 per cent).

Johnson. R. Edayaranmula, director, Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC-India), said inhaling chemical solvents such as turpentine, liquid shoe-polish, adhesives, aerosols and petrol was rampant among school students in Kerala. He said at least 36 students from different schools were treated in different places to wean them off drugs. Youth seeking de-addiction treatment after getting hooked to cough syrups containing codeine and cases of abuse of synthetically modified drugs such as Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS) are on the rise, he said.

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