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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

What is Bangladesh doing to check drug smuggling, abuse?

  • Anti-drug activities include awareness campaigns and raids
  • Only four treatment centres by govt with 199 beds
  • Hotline received 1,290 calls in first six months of 2023
  • In 2022-23, DNC filed 21,834 cases against 23,580 people
  • Cases and accused increased by three times since 2009-10
Update : 04 Mar 2024, 09:44 AM

Bangladesh has established strict laws and carried out numerous initiatives to stop drug smuggling and deter people because it has become concerned about the spread of various drugs over the past 40 years.

Eying a long-term solution, the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), the regulatory authority under the Home Ministry, is implementing a three-way scientific approach: reduction of demand, supply, and harm.

Various programs are being adopted and implemented to create mass awareness about the dangers of drugs across the country as per the integrated action plan to build an anti-drug social movement with the combined efforts of government and private institutions, people from all walks of life, various professionals, and the media.

Earlier, workshops were conducted with eight divisional commissioners, 64 deputy commissioners, and 474 upazila nirhabi officers to facilitate the action plan, and interactive software has been developed to monitor various events.

The demand for drugs is related to supply. If the demand can be reduced, the supply of drugs will also be reduced. The DNC is working to increase public awareness against drugs regularly by involving celebrities and people from all walks of life. The DNC has used social media as an important platform to reach young people by sharing information and pictures through its Facebook page since August 2015. Currently, the page has 1.21 lakh followers.

The government has also set up a hotline number (01908-888888) so that citizens can provide suggestions, complaints, and opinions about the services of the DNC. In six months, until June 30, 2023, the hotline received 1,290 calls.

To make students aware, anti-drug awareness programs are implemented in schools, colleges, and university campuses. Five-member committees have been formed to make students aware of the ill effects of drugs in various educational institutions across the country. The number of such committees was 31,080 as of August 2023.

Cocaine, LSD, crystal meth (ICE), DMT, MDMA, magic mushrooms, yaba (amphetamine), heroin, opium-laced phensedyl (codeine), illegal alcohol, ganja (cannabis), injectable drugs (buprenorphine), glue, etc. are among the frequently seized drugs by various agencies.

yaba_collected

Despite not being a drug-producing country, Bangladesh is vulnerable because of the close proximity of international narcotics-producing and smuggling zones. Cannabis, heroin, phensedyl, buprenorphine injection, and tapentadol tablets enter the country from India; yaba and ICE from Myanmar; and cocaine and LSD from South America and Europe.

Given the situation and the need, the Prime Minister's Office has established three powerful committees: the Strategic Committee, which reports to the principal secretary of the PMO; the Enforcement Committee, which reports to the secretary of the Security Services Division; and the Anti-Drug Awareness and Social Movement Committee, which reports to the secretary of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education.

Moreover, as per the decision of the Enforcement Committee, a Core Committee has been formed with the DNC and all law enforcement agencies, while an anti-trafficking task force has been set up in Cox's Bazar and Teknaf.

 

Supply and demand

Stopping or reducing the supply of drugs is a major challenge since drug dealers and abusers are constantly adopting new tactics. The DNC, the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), the Coast Guard, the Navy, the police, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and other law enforcement agencies conduct anti-drug operations regularly.

The DNC collects intelligence and prepares reports on the production, marketing, smuggling, and abuse of narcotics in the country; conducts operations and mobile courts to control the supply and demand of drugs; arrests drug dealers, confiscates illegal goods, files cases, and provides legal assistance; communicates with all international, regional, and foreign organizations and exchanges information and coordinates work related to drug crimes; and maintains a drug crime database.

The DNC has set up permanent offices to stop the infiltration of yaba from Myanmar by identifying drug trafficking routes. Surveillance has been increased by deploying manpower at Mangla Sea Port, Chittagong Sea Port, Benapole Land Port, and Dhaka and Chittagong airports.

According to DNC officials, Bangladesh has inked bilateral agreements with neighbouring India and Myanmar to address the drug problem.

Regular bilateral meetings are being held between Bangladesh and India at the director general level on drug control. Besides, bilateral meetings were held between Bangladesh and Myanmar to prevent yaba trafficking last year. At each meeting, Myanmar was requested to stop the production and flow of yaba and share intelligence about yaba manufacturing factories located on the Myanmar border.

 

Rehabilitation and guidelines

Since drug addiction is a physical and mental illness, the DNC focuses on providing healthcare facilities for the sufferers. By taking drugs repeatedly, the patient's physical dependence on the drug increases. As a result, the person must take drugs again, even if he or she does not want to.

Due to the continuous consumption of drugs, the drug addict suffers from complex physical problems, becomes a burden to the family, and eventually dies if not given proper treatment.

As part of harm reduction, drug addicts are being treated at centres at the government and private levels to bring them back to a healthy life. There are only four government treatment centres with 199 beds for drug addicts in the country, which is inadequate compared to the number of drug addicts.

Besides, licences have been issued for 365 drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation centres with around 5,000 beds until June 2023.

The government has also been providing training for addiction professionals and distributing grants among the private rehabilitation centres every year since 2019, when 91 institutions were given Tk1 crore. The amount rose to Tk2.5 crore for 82 centres in the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Currently, there are no specific guidelines for the treatment of drug addicts in the country. So, the rehabilitation centres run in their own way based on their own experiences. To ensure a universally accepted standard, the DNC has prepared a draft on the treatment of drug addicts, known as the “National Guidelines for the Management of Substance Use Disorders (SUD)”.

At the four government facilities, some 7,372 old and new patients received treatment in the first six months of 2023; 16,316 in 2022; 10,014 in 2021; and 14,952 in 2020. On average, 5-10% of the total patients are women and children, and around 50% are new patients.

The government also provides counselling services for drug-addicted patients and family members. As of June 2023, some 9,487 people were provided the service at the Central Drug Addiction Treatment Centre in Dhaka. In the private sector, 15,915 people were given counselling services in the 2022-23 fiscal year.

 

Best practices and successes

The DNC has successfully conducted awareness campaigns in prisons, made dope testing for drivers and job interviews mandatory, installed temporary checkposts (3,539 posts in 2022-23), prepared trainers for educational institutions, distributed leaflets, posters, stickers, folders, and calendars, and formed community volunteer teams at the upazila level.

It has promoted 136 anti-drug campaigns on social media and 204 advertisements and discussions in mainstream print and electronic media in 2022-23.

In the 2022-23 fiscal year, 19,844 drug addicts were provided healthcare services at government treatment centres and 18,151 in private centres.

On the other hand, as per the Colombo Plan, the International Centre for Certification and Education of Addiction Professionals training was provided to 235 stakeholders related to the public and the registered private treatment centres.

During the same period, the DNC conducted a total of 90,926 anti-drug operations and filed 21,834 cases against 23,580 people. The number of cases and accused has increased by three times since the 2009-10 fiscal year, according to the DNC’s annual report for 2022-23.

In various operations, the DNC seized 4,982,202 pieces of yaba tablets, 21kg of heroin, 280gm cocaine, 8,535kg of cannabis, 16,928 bottles of phensedyl, 83,003 ampules of injecting drugs, and 1,980 bottles of foreign liquor in 2022-23.

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