BISHKEK, July 9 (Central Asia Online) - More than 20% of the drugs passing along the so-called Northern Route from Afghanistan, through Kyrgyzstan and to Russia and Europe, remain in Kyrgyzstan. If resistance to drugs takes root in society, drug circulation will diminish drastically, officials and analysts predict.
New tactics needed
Kyrgyzstan currently emphasises lectures about the harmful effects of drugs in fighting drug abuse, but Timur Isakov, head of the Drug Licensing and Drug Prevention Department of the State Narcotics Control Service, told Central Asia Online that approach is ineffective.
“Now, we are only frightening young people and, in effect, crippling them,” he said. “Lectures amount to saying how harmful drugs are. Studies have shown that the best and most advanced lecture on this theme induces 10% of the audience to go find drugs. Therefore, we are now trying to refrain from spreading fear and to introduce new principles of prevention, the so-called positive prevention, based on specialists working to ensure that young people are not afraid of this world.”
New approaches to drug abuse prevention are about to start in schools, he said.
“The State Narcotics Control Service has only three specialists in prevention, and of course we cannot cover all schools and colleges,” he said. “We are now busy developing a single model of positive prevention, which will then be ... duplicated for sending to all schools and colleges as a common standard. On the whole, the structures we have in place in Kyrgyzstan are sufficient for the widespread introduction of a system of positive drug abuse prevention.”
Strategies of revamped plan
The new drug abuse prevention strategy will include several strategies.
First, it will rely on live discussions with the youth, versus lectures, Isakov said.
“For example, I’ve recently been at three schools, where my job with the youth was built on the principle of positive prevention. That is, we didn’t talk about the drugs’ harm, but discussed what drugs are and what should be done so that this evil doesn’t touch the youth,” Isakov said.
This way, young people are encouraged to be more active participants in offering alternatives to drug use, he said, citing an example of how this involvement pays off.
“The youth said that they need to engage in sports, broaden their outlook, create goals, etc.,” Isakov said. “During the discussions, built on the principle of positive prevention, the young people started showing motivation for healthy lifestyle.”
The positive prevention method also involves working with parents, and it assumes constant meetings between teachers and parents, where they are told how important it is to create strong connections with their child, which could later be one of the factors able to save him from drugs.
On the governmental side, Isakov said the country needs to add inspectors, and needs to train social workers to be more vigilant and pay attention to children in trouble.
A number of laws could also be amended, he said, in an effort to urge parents to be more responsible for their children.
Focusing on family
The plan also will include an advertising campaign that calls on youth to lead a healthy lifestyle and to enjoy life and family.
This aspect is an extension of the approach the country took on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, June 26. The country this year produced short audio and video programmes, brochures and posters publicising family values, analysts said. Also, prominent Kyrgyz cited the importance of family relationships.
“The Anti-Narcotics Strategy co-ordinates all of the preventive work,” Ryslek, a spokesman for the Central Asian Training Information Centre on Harm Reduction, said of the new approach. “We have already been working on it for more than three years, and we hope that it will be approved and put into operation.”
Hoping to reduce crime
One benefit of keeping youth away from drugs is that it could lead to a significant reduction in drug-related crime, analyst Aydar Gaushev said.
In the first quarter of 2012, Kyrgyz law enforcement, including the State Narcotics Control Service, recorded 497 drug-related crimes, he said. The percentages for the most common types of such crime are illegal import of drugs, 60%; possession of drugs without intention of selling, 11.7%; and drug dealing, 8.5%.
“In 2012 so far, 5.6 tonnes of narcotic substances, psychotropic substances and precursors were taken out of illegal circulation by all Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies,” Gaushev said.
The total value of drugs from Afghanistan passing through Central Asia is about US $18 billion (874 billion KGS), of which Kyrgyzstan accounts for about US $6 billion (282 billion KGS), Viktor Ivanov, director of the Russian Federal Narcotics Control Service, estimated.
“The widespread illegal use of drugs in the republic is a direct result of drugs in transit,” said Ruslan Tokubayev, director of the Republican Centre of Narcology of Kyrgyzstan.
“In four years, the number of drug addicts in the country has increased by 26.5%,” he added. “There are now 10,705 of them, including 744 women.” The official statistics do not reflect the true number of drug addicts, Isakov said, adding, “Various data, including from international organisations, show that the number varies from 100,000 to 300,000.”