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The International Regulatory Framework to Control Abuse of Psychotropic Drugs
By Gary Lewis,
Drug Abuse: News-n-Views
Despite the exasperation and alarm in the many communities where illicit drugs cause crime, illness, violence and death, the worldwide statistical evidence points to a different reality that drug control is working and the world drug problem is being contained. The number of addicts, especially those dependent on cocaine and heroin, has declined massively over the last century. Worldwide, the number has remained stable in the past few years. Of course, the world drug control system is the sum of its parts and progress in one area can be offset by opposite trends elsewhere. Greater global success will depend on the commitment of all our societies to turn containment of the drug problem into a sustained reduction - everywhere.
The countermeasures to fight drug trafficking in South Asia can be examined at different levels : the international efforts and mechanisms, regional (viz. South Asia) initiatives, and national efforts. The transnational nature of the drug trade renders national efforts alone ineffective and necessitates regional and international cooperation.
Over the past century, a worldwide system for the control of drugs of abuse has developed gradually through the adoption of a series of international treaties. At the international level, the important multilateral conventions aimed at drug control are: The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 (as amended by the 1972 Protocol), the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971; and, the United Nations Convention Against illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs codified all the existing multilateral treaties on drug control. Previous treaties had controlled opium, coca and derivatives such as morphine and heroin. The 1961 Convention also broadened the scope of the conventions to include cannabis and allowed control of any drugs with similar effects to those specified in the Convention.
The 1961 Convention also established the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which is an independent and quasi-judicial body for the implementation of the Convention. INCB, in cooperation with Governments, ensures that adequate supplies of drugs are available for medical and scientific use. It also assists Governments' to control and prevent the diversion of chemicals which are used in the illicit manufacture of drugs.
Since the 1961 Convention did not regulate the newly-developed category of psychotropic drugs, this was taken care of in the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances which was specifically designed to control drugs like amphetamines, barbiturates, LSD, etc. This Convention contains import and export restrictions and (as is the case for the other international drug control treaties) aims at limiting drug use to scientific and medical purposes only. Provisions to end the international trafficking of drugs covered by this Convention are contained in the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
With the 1988 Convention, an attempt was made to establish a balance between the obligations of consumer and producer countries. Consequently, it was seen as not only the duty of producing countries, e.g., the developing countries of Asia and Latin America, to suppress illicit supply, but also the duty of consumer countries, e.g., the industrialized countries, to suppress the demand for drugs.
At the regional level, the South Asian countries negotiated the SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in 1990, which was ratified shortly thereafter. The SAARC Convention aimed to re-enforce, at the regional level, the measures provided in the various UN conventions on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
India is a signatory to the SAARC Convention as well as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Conventions on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
In India, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940 regulates the manufacture and domestic distribution of psychotropic substances, whereas the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 (subsequently amended) sets out the statutory framework for drug law enforcement. The Act is designed to fulfill India's treaty obligations under the above mentioned international conventions. Under the provisions of the Act, the Narcotics Control Bureau was established. The Bureau is the central authority for the purpose of coordinating and exercising powers and functions of the Government under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
There is a concern that, in violation of the existing legal provisions, licit pharmaceuticals are sometimes diverted. This is where stringent monitoring is really needed. In India, the controls over licit manufacture, trade and distribution of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances present a challenge. India is the fourth largest manufacturer of pharmaceutical products in the world. The Government is very active in monitoring the precursor chemicals which are used in illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The control over imports and exports of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances also functions reasonably well. However, the control over domestic distribution of such drugs and substances requires strengthening. It is important to ensure that there are sufficient controls imposed by the Government on companies engaged in the distribution of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Under these circumstances, the prescription requirements for psychotropic substances, which exist under law, are implemented.
It is true that the administrative structure of drug control is quite complicated. It is divided over several ministries and departments. There are inevitably some deficiencies in the sharing of data between the authorities and agencies involved. A streamlined structure and step-by-step approach ought to ensure complete monitoring of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
In conclusion, though the international and regional efforts do provide a framework of cooperation, enhance the expertise and monitor the progress, the ultimate implementation of control measures rests with national authorities. Apart from strong political will and commitment and increased technical assistance, it is essential that we find and apply more resources to for the effort to contain the illicit drug problem.
The key issue is to take action now, to head off what is arguably one of the main human security challenges facing India.