Punjab Govt Considers Policy to Decriminalize Drug Use, Prioritizing Treatment & Rehabilitation

Rozana Spokesman

News, Punjab

The pProposed Policy aims to redirect the approach towards drug-addicted individuals

CM Bhagwant Mann

CHANDIGARH: In a significant step towards addressing drug addiction as a public health issue, Punjab Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Balbir Singh announced today that the state government is exploring the possibility of introducing a policy to decriminalize the use of drugs.

Emphasizing that decriminalization does not equate to legalization, Dr. Balbir Singh clarified that drugs would remain illegal and prohibited. The proposed policy aims to redirect the approach towards drug-addicted individuals, treating them as patients rather than criminals. Instead of incarceration and placement in drug rehabilitation centers, those caught with small quantities of drugs would be offered appropriate medical treatment. It should be noted that strict action will continue to be taken against individuals involved in drug trafficking, as per police protocols.

During the "Experts Meeting on Mental Health Issues and Interventions in Punjab" organized by the Punjab Health and Family Welfare Department, key speakers including Professor Dr. Atul Ambekar from AIIMS Delhi and Professor Dr. Prominent Debashish Basu, Head of Psychology at PGI, highlighted the urgent need for comprehensive interventions in tackling mental health challenges and the drug problem in Punjab.

Acknowledging the pervasive impact of drug abuse on Punjab's population, Dr. Balbir Singh expressed his government's firm commitment to combat this issue and transform Punjab into a drug-free state, in line with Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann's vision of a prosperous Punjab.

He emphasized that a multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary approach would form the foundation of the forthcoming policy. Various government departments, including health, social security, youth affairs, education, and employment generation, will collaborate to address the drug problem comprehensively. The Department of Employment Generation and Skill Development will play a vital role in facilitating the reintegration of recovering drug addicts into society by providing them with skills training and employment opportunities.

Dr. Balbir Singh directed health authorities to engage the services of psychiatrists within Punjab's prisons, and encouraged private practitioners to work in partnership with government health institutions to ensure comprehensive care and support for individuals struggling with drug addiction. In her address, Minister of Social Security, Women and Child Development Dr. Baljit Kaur assured her department's full cooperation in the state's endeavor to eradicate the drug menace.

Principal Secretary of Health Vivek Pratap Singh pledged to implement the government's health policies in a systematic manner, while Dr. Abhinav Trikha, Secretary of Health (Community Medicine) and Mission Director of National Health Mission (NHM), urged the public to spread awareness about the 'Telemans Helpline,' which provides assistance for mental health-related issues.