Yesterday was the international day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking. While we can appreciate the fact that Pakistan has been successfully maintaining its poppy-free status since 2001, however, it is also true that drug abuse in Pakistan has reached alarming levels. The available data indicate that at least 3.6 per cent of the entire population is the victim of drug abuse. It is highly likely that the figures are conservative for many people do not share such information because the subject and use of drugs are considered taboos in our society.

While there are a number of laws and bodies that control the inflow of drugs in the country, what is absent is a narrative on the consumption of drugs. Since drugs are a taboo, no one talks about it. This lack of dialogue makes people vulnerable to fall for the attraction that drugs carry. According to a study conducted by United Nations in 2013, 40,000 people become drug addicts in Pakistan each year. Such a high increase has made Pakistan one of the most drug-affected countries in the world. One wonders why, despite so many control mechanisms and laws, the people start taking drugs. The reason is plain; for no debate on drugs means people cannot gauge the pros and cons of consuming substances.

Every year on this day the highest state officials make tall claims to make Pakistan free from drugs. However, the share of resources to fight drug abuse in the 2017-18 budget, i.e., Rs70 million shows how committed our state is in fighting the war against drugs. The question that arises is ‘how to fight this war?’ The answer to the question lies in not treating a drug addict as a pariah. S/he needs treatment. Recovery is what many drug addicts desire; however, they either lack access to treatment centres or resources to afford treatment. The war against drugs needs to be fought on many fronts. Merely introducing laws against drugs consumption cannot achieve the desired results.