Planned grassroots action targets PHL drug menace

MANILA-- A new partnership aims helping curb proliferation of illegal drugs and drug abuse in urban poor communities nationwide.

Formalized Thursday (Feb. 9) in Metro Manila, the partnership between Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) and Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) targets building up communities' capacity to act against proliferation of such ills.

"We'll enhance communities' role in our anti-illegal drugs campaign," said DDB Chairperson Benjamin Reyes at a press conference on the partnership which he described as the agency's first with PCUP.

He noted increasing community participation is among measures DDB hopes integrating in its proposed holistic nationwide campaign against illegal drugs.

Reyes raised urgency for the partnership with PCUP, noting the drug menace is among major problems in the country's highly urbanized areas.

PCUP's network of partners at the urban grassroots level, extent of this agency's manpower deployment nationwide and its own anti-illegal drugs campaign will help DDB pursue initiatives for ultimately curbing supply of and demand for contraband drugs, he noted.

"There's an opportunity to curb such supply and demand so we partnered with PCUP," he said.

According to DDB, drugs are chemicals that brings aboutphysiological, emotional or behavioral change in persons using these.

DDB cautioned against drug abuse, noting this practice can lead to dependence on dangerous drugs.

Dangerous drugs are either organic or synthetic substances with "high tendency for abuse and dependency," DDB warned.

Commonly abused substances in the country are methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu", cannabis or "marijuana", and inhalants which are mostly contact cement, DDB noted.

Citing available data on the country's drug users, DDB said their mean age is 20 to 29 years.

DDB also said drug users nationwide are generally married, employed and managed to reach high school level.

"We must further inform communities about ills of drug abuse," PCUP Chairperson Terry Ridon said at the press conference.

Aside from partnering with DDB, he said PCUP is coordinating with the labor and trade departments as well as other agencies so the urban poor can have more livelihood opportunities.

Providing livelihood will help address demand for and trade of illegal drugs, he noted.

Under the memorandum of agreement covering the partnership, DDB will train PCUP's area coordinators and its other personnel so they can, in turn, train people's organizations and other community stakeholders on preventing drug abuse.

DDB will also help update PCUP's Urban Poor Kontra Droga module to be used during the training and information dissemination.

PCUP will support the anti-illegal drugs campaign by integrating drug abuse concepts in this agency's programs and harnessing urban poor organization leaders' capability to help fight the drug problem.

"We don't want government to be solely in that fight," Ridon said.

He urged all sectors to help government pursue its campaign against illegal drugs.

According to DDB, studies found "shabu" to adversely change how the brain functions.

"Studies showed methamphetamine abusers have reduced motor skills and impaired verbal learning as a result of alterations in the activity of the dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in reward, motivation, experience of pleasure and motor function," said DDB.

Other adverse effects of "shabu" are extreme weight loss, severe dental problems, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances and violent behavior, DDB noted.

"Marijuana use impairs a person's ability to form new memories and to shift focus," DDB continued. "Its active component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) also disrupts coordination and balance, posture and reaction time thus, chronic marijuana use significantly reduces a person's capacity to learn, carry out complicated tasks,participate in sports, drive and operate other machinery."

Studies also show marijuana use "can lead to lung cancer and other problems in the respiratory and immune systems," DDB noted.

"Effects of inhalants are similar to that of alcohol including slurred speech, lack of coordination, euphoria and dizziness -- inhalant abusers may also experience light-headedness, hallucinations and delusions," DDB said further.

DDB noted studies show among harmful irreversible effects of inhalants are hearing loss, limb spasms as well as damage to either the brain, central nervous system or bone marrow.

According to DDB, there are common signs possibly indicating a person's use of illegal drugs.

Among those signs are declining interest in school or work, hanging out with known drug users, asking to be left alone a lot, increasing frequency of mood swings as well as feeling irritable and anxious.

Sudden change in appearance and conduct, loss of interest in hobbies, demonstration of poor judgment and difficulty inconcentrating are also common signs a person may be a drug user, DDB added. (PNA)

Source: Philippines information agency

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