"Getting “high” is not a pharmacological effect of alcohol or drugs, but a socially learned interpretation of the pharmacological effects"

Hans Olav Fekjaer, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs: Myths and Realties

At FISD, we aim at building the capacity of local organizations through the Alcohol, Drugs and Development (ADD) programme. Through the ADD programme, we facilitate the lobbying and advocacy for, and engage in activism to, crystallize the political will of the government for the reduction of harm caused by alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. The ultimate aim of the programme is to reduce the harm caused by these substances in the selected target locations. It is expected that there would eventually be a reduction in the incidences of health problems and gender based violence associated with these substances as well as an improvement in the status of economic planning for youth. The long term strategic goal of the ADD programme is to bring about the improved performance of the state and civil society actors in managing the supply and demand of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs throughout the country.

Other objectives include the development of an evidence based working model to delay the initiation of the use of alcohol and drugs among non users, to lower the per capita population consumption among current users, and to reduce harmful behavior associated with to non users and users by the year 2013. It is expected that this system would in turn roll into policy dialogue from 2013 for the implementation of the NATA (National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol) act and other important regulations.

At present, we conduct capacity building programmes with youth groups for effectively advocating for and contribution to the implementation of the NATA act and other regulations at the Local Government level aiming at reducing the supply and demand for alcohol, tobacco, and other substances in 45 village locations. These groups will identify, study and forward cases on violations of the NATA act and other relevant regulations for which action has yet to be taken to the police, senior administrators, and politicians for action. The youth groups will work to ensure that the sales outlets in their communities comply with NATA and other regulations, especially to make sure that alcohol or tobacco is not sold to persons below 21 years of age.
Another aspect of the ADD programme is the challenging and changing of expectancies on alcohol and other drugs, targeting mainly youth and children. The target groups would be enabled to identify and criticize expectancies or ‘positive’ messages associated with the social learning created by the media in the marketing of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. They would challenge and work to change these expectancies and thereby changing the social milieus conducive for alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. The youth groups and children’s groups, which include those who currently consume alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, will join local youth action groups to reduce the frequency and amount of use.

 

We work towards encouraging national level organizations to increase their actions towards the mainstreaming of alcohol and drug prevention as well as the management alcohol and other drug related issues in to their own programme activities. Capacity building programmes for organizations working towards the prevention of gender based violence, the protection and promotion of child rights and poverty alleviation as well as lobbying and advocacy activities in collaboration with these organizations in suitable groups, forums, and media, is another strategy of our programme to prevent the use of drugs and alcohol and the problems related to them.

The politicization of alcohol, drugs and development issues is also very much a part of the ADD programme. We aim at facilitating the process by which persons from local community groups will actively campaign and lobby with electable politicians for the enforcement of the NATA act and relevant laws and regulations for the reduction of the supply and demand for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs for the development and management of their local communities. These parties will also advocate alongside state duty bearers to fulfill their obligations in the enforcement of the NATA act and other regulations. The electable politicians would regularly take up issues related to Alcohol, Drugs and Development (ADD) with politicians and officials at the local government level.

The principle stakeholders and target groups of the ADD programme are youth and children. These groups will function as both actors and ultimate target persons for change. The police, courts, government agents, and local politicians will be the other principle stakeholders and target groups. We also work with national level networks such as the Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations against Drug Abuse (SLFONGOADA), and other networks of Non-Governmental Organizations, and Government organizations such as Samurdhi, the Department of Education, the Department of Health, and the Psycho Social Forum. Through this system of networking, we aim at working towards similar goals to coordinate, share knowledge, and work on and record the results of common strategies and action.

Alcohol, Drugs & Development ( ADD ) Programme Methology

When discussing the use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, a frequently asked question is: “Why do people use these substances?” The use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs is associated with a complex combination of personal and social factors. In addition to availability and easy accessibility, the social milieu in that the use of these substances is considered pleasurable and positive promotes the use. There is convincing pharmacological evidence to prove that chemical effect of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is in itself is not pleasurable. Even the alleged pleasure from the moderate use of alcohol and other drugs, under close investigation, was revealed to be derived from social context, expectations, extraneous stimuli and social conditioning over many instances of use.

The ADD Programme involves a comprehensive approach and is conducted at Community level, Divisional Level District Level and National Level and supports its global partners in their efforts through these activities. Therefore, the strategy of the Programme is a composite one of these levels.

The community level programme is implemented through Community Action Teams (CATs) consisting of groups of children, youth, women and men, including substance users.
A community empowerment model with the following characteristics is used in this programme:
  • Responsibility is shared where the Power resides in the communities - (Doing with the communities)
  • The community members are the experts of prevention activities
  • Prevention activities are planned and implemented on the basis of community needs and priorities
  • Leadership is from within the community, based on the ability to develop a shared vision, maintain a broad base of support, and manage community problem – solving.
  • The diversity and special populations in the communities is valued for prevention activities.
  • Cooperation and collaboration of different community groups is emphasized
  • Decision – making is inclusive and evaluation is used to check programme development and decision – making
  • Funding is on critical health issues and community will be maximally involved at all levels.
The Divisional level programme is implemented through, Divsional Action Teams (DATs), Community Based Organizations, Divisional Secretariats and the Pradeshiya Sabhas according to the following strategies:
  • Youth focused civil society action groups in selected target locations are equipped with the correct understanding on alcohol, tobacco and other drug regulations
  • Youth focused Divisional Action Teams (DATs) have increased knowledge on collecting and collating data and advocacy strategies for reducing the illegal supply and demand of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
  • Increased knowledge on how to reduce consumption among youth and children in general and those using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs in particular
The District level programme is implemented through, the Community Service Organizations (CSO), District Secretariats and the respective Governmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations to ensure that:
  • Govt. Officials ( Local government officials, police, courts, politicians and other official duty bearers to government regulations) have improved knowledge on NATA and other regulations and their role in enforcing such regulations for the benefit to communities.
  • Improved inter-agency coordination among local activists, NGOs, selected government ministries, departments and offices that include Samurdhi Authority, National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA).
  • Increase in the knowledge capacity of district level organizations on ADD issues in Sri Lanka, and knowledge and strategies to address these issues.
The National level programme is implemented through, selected respective Governmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations in order to achieve:
  • Improved inter-agency coordination among local activists, NGOs, selected government ministries, departments and offices that include Samurdhi Authority, National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA), Sri Lanka Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations against Drug Abuse (SLFONGODA),St. John’s Ambulance, Department of Railways, Ministry of Health.
  • Increased knowledge and capacity of national organizations on ADD issues in Sri Lanka, and knowledge and strategies to address these issues
  • Improved knowledge of citizens in selected target locations on the link between ADD issues, a safer more health environment, and the duty of politicians to the people

Prevention of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use

The adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ is much apt for managing issues related to the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Hence, the problems associated with alcohol, tobacco and the use of other drugs are complicated and enormous number of personal and social factors.

The prevention of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs could be defined as efforts to avert or to minimize the negative conditions sequences that these substances are associated with. The ADD Programme places much emphasis on the prevention of substance use. The programme also acknowledges the need for treatment for those who have become dependent on alcohol and tobacco use as well as the use of other drugs. The implementation of the ADD programme is based on evidence-based or scientific strategies.

Despite being done with good intentions and enthusiasm, many drug education and prevention strategies, strategies such as using fear tactics, increasing the awareness and cognition about the harm, improving the self esteem of the users, improved decision making skills and training the users to resist pressure to use do not seem to be effective in bringing about the desirable attitudinal or behavioral change. Similarly, providing alternative actives for didactic communication by law enforcement agents, experts and ex-dependent persons too have not been of much use.

ADD Programme Approach

The adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ is much apt for managing issues related to the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Hence, the problems associated with alcohol, tobacco and the use of other drugs are complicated and enormous number of personal and social factors.

The prevention of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs could be defined as efforts to avert or to minimize the negative conditions sequences that these substances are associated with. The ADD Programme places much emphasis on the prevention of substance use. The programme also acknowledges the need for treatment for those who have become dependent on alcohol and tobacco use as well as the use of other drugs. The implementation of the ADD programme is based on evidence-based or scientific strategies.

Despite being done with good intentions and enthusiasm, many drug education and prevention strategies, strategies such as using fear tactics, increasing the awareness and cognition about the harm, improving the self esteem of the users, improved decision making skills and training the users to resist pressure to use do not seem to be effective in bringing about the desirable attitudinal or behavioral change. Similarly, providing alternative actives for didactic communication by law enforcement agents, experts and ex-dependent persons too have not been of much use.

Programme Strategy

The ADD Programme involves a comprehensive approach and is conducted at Community level, Divisional Level District Level and National Level and supports its global partners in their efforts through these activities. Therefore, the strategy of the Programme is a composite one of these levels.

Global Level

The Global level programme is implemented with the FORUT International’s ADD programme and in collaboration with ADD partner organizations in carrying out advocacy for the implementation of effective global policies and practices for prevention of alcohol and other drug use.