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Sunday, 17 April 2011





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The NDDCB initiative:

A drug-free world for future generations

The NDDCB head office

With the ending of the humanitarian operation and establishment of territorial integrity following 30 years of conflict, Sri Lanka was seen to be turning its focus on resolving crimes and drug abuse, while extending attention towards economic, social and cultural development with peace among all ethnic groups.

Drug-related social issues have become a topic of discussion not only in media, but also among individuals in various social strata. The Mathata Thitha concept of President Mahinda Rajapaksa was formulated for eradicating the drug menace from our motherland. In this context, the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, as the focal point for coordination of all drug control activities in the country, is taking various steps to achieve this objective. The NDDCB has been functioning based on a National Policy, authenticated by President Rajapaksa, which goes beyond a mere political manifesto, targeting the control and prevention of drug abuse.

The Board is entrusted with the responsibility of conducting a national program directed towards control and prevention of drug abuse in the country, starting from the smallest unit in the society ‘the family’ and encompassing the whole Sri Lankan social body. In realisation of this objective, the Board conducts a variety of programs while maintaining a hotline service (1984) which is open 24 hours for public complaints, inquiries and assistance.

The Board has expanded its services in large scale as a consequence of an incessant series of changes that occurred since its inception in 1984. It is of great significance for everyone to be aware of the services offered by the NDDCB as individuals who expect a decent society and a better tomorrow.

Currently, the NDDCB renders its service in a unique and diversified array of ways.

* Prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs for drug dependants, with State security and responsibility;

* Educational and preventive programs to improve the awareness of schoolchildren and the public;

* Outreach service programs and post-evaluation to assist in resolving any drug-related issues in society, and conducting on-site awareness programs in collaboration with Divisional Secretaries and Grama Niladharis;

The National Narcotics laboratory

* Researches and publications directed towards identification of new trends in drug abuse, development of services and sharing knowledge with the vulnerable communities for drug abuse;

* Publish articles and documentaries in electronic and print media to enhance public awareness on drug abuse;

* Counselling services offered to guide drug dependants in developing self-esteem against drugs;

* National Narcotics Laboratory equipped with modern technology and machinery to serve the country by means of scientific investigations, chemical analysis and characterisation of any drug with a potential danger; and

* Treatment and rehabilitation programs with State security and responsibility offered free for drug dependants.

Treatment and rehabilitation centres

There are five treatment and rehabilitation centres conducted by the NDDCB which provide free services for those who are addicted to drugs. The Board provides the opportunity for those who are determined to get over their addiction to socialise once again as individuals with good conduct through a systematic, methodical and scientific treatment program.

The Board ensures the right of every citizen to get rehabilitated from addiction to drugs, by getting interned in one of these centres either voluntarily or through the intervention of parents, relatives or friends. An individual seeking treatment should remain here for three months.

The Board has taken steps and responsibility in providing better services for its clients through psychotherapy methods such as individual counselling and group counselling conducted by well-trained and experienced staff. The employees at these centres serve with dedication to rehabilitate drug addicts through the knowledge they have gained by participating in national and international training programs and workshops.

Every treatment and rehabilitation centre consists of a counsellor, assistant counsellors and prevention, treatment and training assistant officers who are employed under a manager. Currently, the Board is making arrangements to establish district offices throughout the island. Every client is provided with a free nutritious meal during the period in which they are interned. Free accommodation facilities are also provided. Facilities are also provided for exercises and recreational activities.

The staff also provides the opportunity for the clients to be engaged in religious activities. Weekly religious programs are held within the treatment premises with the participation of clergy and prelates to create an ethical and religious compliance in each individual.

Clients are provided with the opportunity of engaging in a vocational training program according to their preference during the internment. Steps are being taken via vocational training programs to make the clients economically strong and socially recognised individuals by shaping them to be competent in the vocation of their choice when they step in to society.

Currently, the NDDCB is making plans to initiate a separate vocational training centre with the intention of providing vocational training to rehabilitated drug dependants in a professional capacity, as a measure of ensuring a better future for them. The Board is making untiring efforts to introduce to drug addicts the ways of enjoying life without resorting to drugs by helping them improve their aesthetic skills via recreational and aesthetic activities. Thus, the clients are given assistance and opportunities to improve their skills in aesthetic areas such as music, art and drama. The Board also takes steps to discover, exploit and showcase the creative skills of clients by organising art exhibitions and competitions.

Educational and preventive programs

In compliance with the National Policy, the Education and Prevention Unit of the NDDCB is set on pre-identifying and educating the social groups that carry the risk of being enticed to drugs to prevent them from being addicted to such habits. Under the patronage of the NDDCB, drug prevention programs are conducted for various social groups such as schoolchildren, labourers and minor factory staff.

The Board consists of a pool of well trained and dedicated professionals who are veterans in conducting preventive programs. These educational and preventive programs are revised periodically and whenever required, to improve the quality and relevance to the community they are delivered to. The NDDCB is taking every possible step to minimise the number of individuals who will be addicted to drugs, via prevention programs aiming the youth and schoolchildren.

Outreach service programs and post-evaluation

A large number of qualified and experienced outreach officers affiliated to the NDDCB is providing their services throughout the country. These outreach officers who are employed at Colombo, Gampaha, Puttalam, Galle, Badulla, Anuradhapura, Ampara, Ratnapura and Kalutara are prepared to assist the victims of drug abuse, in resolving any issue related to drugs. These officers are taking all the appropriate steps to intern the drug addicts at treatment and rehabilitation centres or to provide them counselling services within their premises. In addition, the outreach officers are making every effort to follow up and evaluate the conduct of those individuals who are released from the centres, to prevent them from resorting to addiction.

Knowledge and Information through Research and Publication Unit

With a view to gauging the new developments that arise in relation to drugs, trends and alterations to determine the social compliance and functionality, the NDDCB comprises a Research and Publication Unit. This unit conducts research programs on various topics and prepares the policies as required while keeping the information related to drugs and statistics updated.

These statistics and information are routinely analysed, evaluated and communicated with the other sections of the Board, to ensure prompt action whenever drug abuse issues arise and potential threats occur. Publications of the NDDCB in both print and electronic media carry out a major role in improving public awareness and knowledge.

The Research Unit of the NDDCB can be considered as an ideal core of knowledge and information for university students and schoolchildren who are interested in research studies about the abuse, control and prevention of drugs.

Counselling services

The head office of the NDDCB conducts a counselling service which is open from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. during weekdays for drug addicts, their family members, children and wives. Through this counselling service, any individual who is suffering from an issue related to drugs is provided with support, remedies and pathways for remedies.

Anyone can obtain treatment from the treatment centres at Galle, Colombo, Nittambuwa, Kandy and Piliyandala while counselling services are also provided by the centres at Anuradhapura, Ampara, Beruwala, Chilaw, Ratnapura, All Ceylon Buddhist Congress and head office. Currently, the Board is taking initiatives to commence new counselling centres at Maharagama, Slave Island, Gampaha and Maradana.

In addition to the counselling service conducted at the head office and outstations, the Colombo centre offers a residential treatment program and a counselling service for a reasonable charge, to cater to people who have difficulties in adhering to the mandatory three months residential program. Nevertheless, the Board maintains the same quality, comprehensiveness, care and reliability with a good supervision to ensure that the clients receive the best service for their payment, at all times.

National Narcotics Laboratory

The National Narcotics Laboratory (NNL) of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board was established as part of a project undertaken by the NDDCB and was funded by the United Nations Drugs Control Programme (UNDCP). It is now renowned not only in Sri Lanka, but throughout the South Asian region as one of the best laboratories with modern scientific equipment.

The laboratory staff is engaged exclusively in analysis of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals, in addition to conducting training and research.

Due to the untiring efforts and dedication of the well-trained scientific staff and the management towards the development of the lab, the NNL now has a huge potential to carry out most of the sophisticated analytical experiments by itself, saving money which should otherwise be spent on foreign laboratories.

The laboratory’s scientific staff consists of qualified intellectuals from pioneer national universities; they are highly skilled and versatile in their field, with training and experience. The NDDCB is planning to conduct drug testing (dope testing) programs for sportsmen and women to ensure their compliance with the terms of the Code of Conduct in sports sectors. Measures have already been taken to upgrade the laboratory facilities in a manner which is conducive for such work.

With this, the NNL will be able to perform drug tests for sportsmen and women at a concessionary rate, saving money for the country, which would otherwise be spent on foreign laboratories.

The NDDCB is grateful to the Ministry of Sports and the Department of Police for their generous support in this regard.

The major activities carried out at the laboratory can be classified under four categories.

* Routine analytical work

This includes the analysis and issue of reports of samples of suspected narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and preparations sent by law enforcement agencies such as the Police, Customs and Excise; samples such as pharmaceutical tablets and indigenous Ayurvedic preparations forwarded by non-governmental organisations and individuals; samples of urine sent by agencies (Governmental or non-governmental) for pre-employment “screening” purposes and individuals requiring a certificate of being “drug free” as a requirement for migration purposes and employment in certain countries. Dope testing for sportsmen and women will be the next facility offered under this category.

* Training programs

Regular lectures, demonstrations and training in the analysis of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals are being conducted by the laboratory’s scientific staff, both for local and international participants, with the latter comprising participants from SAARC countries and South West Asia, sponsored by the UNODC. The local participants include delegates from Police, Customs, Excise, Prisons and those engaged in drug-related work both in the public and private sectors with a view to enhancing their knowledge and analytical capabilities.

* Research

The laboratory has already undertaken a considerable amount of research work, particularly in the field of heroin and cannabis. The NNL scientists have research publications to their credit in international journals and further presentations made, at both local and international scientific conferences.

* International Quality Assurance Programs

The National Narcotics Laboratory is a participant of the International Quality Assurance Program formerly known as the International Collaborative Exercise (ICE) conducted by the United Nations Drugs Control Program.

The analytical part consists of both ‘biological specimens’ and ‘seized materials’. The results of the recent assessments in past years have been exceedingly encouraging. The laboratory staff is currently taking steps to upgrade the laboratory to comply with the ISO 9001:20008 Standard.

Pharmaceutical drugs quality assurance program is another development of the NNL in expanding its services to the nation. As such the NNL will undertake the laboratory activities in pharmaceutical products analysis and quality testing of post-market pharmaceutical drugs. The Board is highly confident of the success of these activities, and the NNL is committed to the best of its ability to provide an excellent service.

The NDDCB which is dedicated to provide a better future for the Sri Lankan society is well and truly geared to resolve any issue related to drugs. Based on the concepts of President Rajapaksa, and under the direct purview of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, treatment centres and treatment methodology are developing with new dimensions.

The youth of Sri Lanka is invited to join forces with the NDDCB in the quest for safeguarding the future generation of the motherland not only financially or materially, but as resource personnel. Dedication of the youth towards eradication of drug abuse in creating a drug-free world for future generations is highly appreciated by the NDDCB at all times.

A major issue the Board is faced with is ensuring the sustainability of rehabilitated drug dependants by providing them a path for independence. Due to the stigmatisation of drug dependants by society, employers are reluctant to offer them opportunities in their organisations.

Therefore, a dire necessity exists to provide the rehabilitated drug dependants an opportunity to develop life skills and earn a living to survive in society with dignity, and without discrimination and stigmatisation.

The writer is Chairperson, National Dangerous Drugs Control Board.


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