Maldives: Engaging parents in addressing drug use - parental guide book shows the way
Maldives, mostly known as a tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean, has been struggling with increasing drug use among its youth. Situated within close reach of the opium growing Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Vietnam, Lao PDR and Thailand) and the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan and Pakistan), the island nation has witnessed a gradual increase in the use of illicit drugs over the last four decades, which has escalated over the last few years at an alarming rate.
A recently conducted National Drug Use Survey has found that the prevalence of current drug use in the capital Malé and the Atolls is 6.64 per cent and 2.02 per cent respectively, with the majority of drug users being between 15 and 29 years old. The study also found that 47 per cent of drug users in the Atolls and 65 per cent of drug users in Malé were dependent drug users. Considering that youth account for a large share of the population, such drug use patterns constitute a grave concern, as they are often linked to problems in families and the community and entail significant health and economic implications for the country's population.
One step forward
In an effort to help parents address drug use at home from an early age, Journey, a Maldivian NGO has produced a guide entitled 'Kaamiyaabu Beleniveriyaa' (Successful Parenting). The handbook for parents explains the possible causes for drug use and dependence. It lists drug use symptoms of different drugs as well as critical warning signs including physical and behavioural changes in children. The book walks parents through techniques of effective parenting from a drug prevention perspective, for children in preschool through to grade 12.
Mariyam, whose son is currently studying for his A-levels, shared her story with us.
"I never thought that my son would use drugs, there is no one in our family or close relatives who uses drugs. I thought drugs were used by criminals or by people who are at the very low end of society, now I know that it might also be used by average people of society (as well). My belief has changed. Now I know that drug addiction is a disease and I should not isolate them (drug addicts) or look at them with fear or treat them as criminals. Now I know why my son spends such a long time in the toilet, why his sleeping patterns have changed, now I know how I should help him. Now I understand him."
Written in Dhivehi and translated into English, the book targets Maldivian parents and is tailored to the Maldivian context, but can also be used by parents in other countries. In light of the growing need among parents to engage with their children and create awareness about the harmful effects of drugs, this book comes as a much required step in the right direction.
The book can be viewed online at: http://journey.org.mv/parenting-guide-to-say-no-to-drugs/
The publication "Kaamiyaabu Beleniveriyaa" and the National Drug Use Survey were developed within the UNODC-supported project "Strengthening the national response to prevent drug abuse in the Maldives", a project with the Government of Maldives. The project is funded by the European Union (EU) and the Government of Sweden.
The key findings of the National Drug Use Survey were presented by the National Drug Agency, Government of Maldives on World Drug Day 2012.