Anti-drug campaign focuses on schools, colleges in Kerala

Anti-drug campaign focuses on schools, colleges in Kerala

KOCHI: With drug abuse on the rise among youth, as many as 4,557 youth below the age of 18 have undergone de-addiction treatment under the excise department’s Vimukthi mission in the last three-and-a-half years. The worrying trend is forcing the department to change tack in its anti-drug campaign, now focusing on schools and colleges.

Under the Vimukthi scheme, each district in the state has a de-addiction centre staffed by counsellors. Around 1,19,560 people have received treatment at these centres since October 2018, when the facility became operational. Of these, 9,909 have undergone inpatient treatment. VA Pradeep, Deputy Commissioner of Excise in charge of the Vimukthi scheme, said that a large number of youngsters are undergoing de-addiction treatment at the Vimukthi centres. However, many parents are still reluctant to seek help for their children’s drug addiction.

“As per the NDPS Act, juveniles arrested in narcotics cases are required to undergo therapy at Vimukthi, following which the prosecution action against them is dropped. A number of parents have approached us seeking help to help their children overcome drug addiction. If such bad habits are detected at an early stage, there is a high chance that the children will recover from the addiction. However, due to social stigma, several parents are still reluctant to provide medical care to their children,” he said. Between January 2023 and March 2024, as per the excise data, 9,889 NDPS cases and 23,387 Abkari cases were registered in the state. Most of the NDPS cases were registered in Ernakulam (1,141), Kottayam (1,014) and Alappuzha (871) districts.

Under the 14-day inpatient programme, each participant must have a mentor at the de-addiction centre. Children from dysfunctional families are more vulnerable to drug addiction, says Pradeep. “We have seen children who hate their parents often fall into the clutches of drug peddlers. The role of parents is crucial in rehabilitation,” he said.

A senior revenue official in Ernakulam district said that about 40 per cent of those seeking de-addiction are below 21 years of age. “Most children start using drugs in their circle of friends. Some consider it a fad. By the time many realise their folly, the addiction will have turned their lives upside down. We have arrested many peddlers who target schoolchildren and college students. More and more women are also approaching us to join the programme,” he said.