India: UNODC showcases Family Skills Programme at multi-stakeholder consultation in northeastern region


Assam, India/29 September 2023: Family is undoubtedly one of the most influential social institutions. Accordingly, one of UNODC/WHO’s interventions--described in the International Standards of Drug Use Prevention with “very good” indication of efficacy (based on the wealth of scientific evidence available)--are family skills-based programmes. These programmes in essence support caregivers in being better parents and strengthen positive age-specific and age-appropriate family functioning and interactions in general.

They promote a warm child-rearing style where parents set rules for acceptable behaviours, closely monitor free time and friendship patterns and become good role models while helping their children to acquire skills to make informed decisions. Such factors are important to prevent drug use, substance abuse and other risky behaviours (including crime and violence). The initiative builds on evidence-based prevention, especially relying on improving family functioning, bonding and communication, and has been implemented in several countries.

In this context, 30 stakeholders from key government departments from Assam and Manipur convened in Guwahati for intensive discussions on the implementation of Family Skills Programme in the northeastern region. The multi-stakeholder consultation was held in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.

Opening the consultation, Ms. Radhika Chakravarthy, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment reflected on the important initiatives taken by the Government of India on drug prevention—in particular the impact of the flagship Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyan (Drug Free India campaign). She underscored peer pressure as one of the main reasons for adverse behaviours in adolescents, as revealed in a recent study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS).

This was further elucidated by Mr. Mukesh Chandra Sahu, Principal Secretary, Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of Assam, who highlighted the severity of the drug problem and the importance of families in drug prevention.

UNODC Regional Representative for South Asia Mr. Marco Teixeira stressed on the need for large-scale drug-use prevention initiatives that are school-, family- and community-based to reduce the risk of increasing drug use disorders.

Extending support to national efforts led by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment under the Nasha Mukt Bharat (Drug Free India) campaign, Mr. Teixeira said, “We must join hands and enhance coordinated, evidence-based and multi-stakeholder action to protect our young from drug use and crime. Investment in children is key to eradicate poverty, boost shared prosperity, and enhance intergenerational equity. At UNODC, we stand ready to supplement efforts by the Government of India in addressing the drug problem.”

This was followed by open discussion, assessing the impact of these initiatives on drug use prevention among children.

Meeting the needs of children in particular presents a challenge due to the limited availability of research specific to the psychosocial and pharmacological interventions effective for this vulnerable population.

Additionally, there are social constructs such as denial, stigma and ideological considerations that present barriers to providing interventions that target children and adolescents.

In this backdrop, UNODC’s Criminal Justice Expert Ms. Seema Joshi Arya introduced global good practices in the areas of drug use prevention and treatment, highlighting the Family Skills Programme and the Listen First initiative.

Evidence-based parenting skills and family skills training programmes have been found to be a highly effective way to prevent substance use among children and adolescents.

These programmes offer skill-building for parents on monitoring and supervision of children's activities, communication as well as setting age-appropriate limits. These programmes improve family functioning, organization, communication and interpersonal relationships.

This activity contributed to SDG 3, SDG 16 and SDG 17: