Venue : Mel Medura – Colombo 7.
Date : 18th of August 2007.
Time : 8.30am
Project Chairman : Leo Sanjaya Sayakkara.

We have organized this very important project incorporation with LEO CLUB OF COLUMBO (HOST). It was an anti drug campaign organized in the organization called Mel Medura. We met Dr Manoj Fernando and very good discussions. With him we had the chance to express our ideas about addiction to drugs and why people use drugs.

About Mel Medura....
It is the drug demand reduction wing of the Sri Lanka Sumitharayo. Sumithrayo was first established in 1974. The main objective of them was to reduce suicides. But statistics indicate that more than 40% of suicides in Sri Lanka are drug related. So due to the close relationship between suicide rates and drug use, they set up a treatment and rehabilitation facility at Mel Medura (the ancestral home of the De Mel Family). There vision is to reduce the social acceptance of harmful drug use in Sri Lanka. They are designing new programs that are flexible and essentially suited to people living within our own socio-economic and cultural context. Their 70% of income are used for primary prevention programs.

What we learn...
In there we started our discussion with identifying what are the drugs available in Sri Lankan market. We
consider both the legally allowed and not allowed drugs. Some of them are some of them are listed
o Alcohol
o Tobacco
o Cannabis or ganja
o Heroin
o Betel-chew and non-prescriptive drugs

Then we discussed about why people use drugs. One thing was inability cope with the social pressure. As an example, if a person has a friend who smokes and he will get addicted to the smoking due to pressure exerted on him by friends. This sort of people will afraid to refuse. The reason is they think that will cause problems to their image. On the other hand some will initially use drugs for experiment. This is related with the image which is attached to it. Society thinks that the drug usage is a happy feeling. The media and some other parties like manufacturers of alcohol and tobacco spreads the idea. So it will attract people to it. Another reason is social acceptance society give values to these addictions. They have given benefits to the drug user. As an example if some drunken person makes problems people tends to move away from him without responding to his action. So this is a license for that person to cause problems for others.
Then we have discussed how harmful the drugs are. It is harmful for the individual persons as well as for the economy. About 500,000 families are Samurdhi recipients; 1/3 of the money they receive from the State is spent on alcohol and tobacco. About 30-130 people die daily from alcohol and tobacco related issues. One in every 10 children are school dropouts because of alcohol and tobacco use in the home. Rs. 763 million in 1998 Rs. 1288 million in 1999 was sent out of the country through local tobacco sales. In the health aspect it is also dangerous. Alcohol consumption has been linked to more than 60 diseases. Alcohol can cause a number of different cancers. For an example lip, tongue, throat, oesophagus and liver cancer can be stated. On the other hand diseases like high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, and strokes are also there. In tobacco smoke larger percentage of chemicals are there. One main substance is nicotine. There are nicotine free cigarettes. But one thing to be considered is, nicotine is only one substance which can affect health. There are 19 more carcinogens and other chemical which can affect health. One main problem of smoking is that exposure of women to cigarette smoking may cause damage to her fertility. Lung cancer, heart disease impotency is also problems associate with smoking.

We also had discussion about how the manufacturers of this drugs form their markets and what are the threats we have I the future. These manufacturers of drugs have a great problem than other
manufacturers. Large portion of their consumers die in a year. So to be in the market they have to attract new customers. They use different techniques. One major thing is lift it as a fashion. Tobacco and beer are marketed in this way. On the other hand very popular person will be use generalize the drug usage normal. Also using well dressed fashionable people to smoke in front of young generation is another way. Another lagely used way is use if teledramas, films, cartoons. Large portion of society watch them and that will generalize the alcohol or cigarette usage. The newest market which those manufacturer are try to capture is women. More than 50% of the populations are women and in Sri Lanka they do not use considerable amount of alcohol or other drugs. So they consider this as un tapped market.
We stopped our discussion with discussing what we can do to stop this addiction we decided to organize activities in our areas and discuss the result in the next meeting. The best thing we decided to do for drug user is that we are considering it as foolish act and not giving him support for any activity or discussion which will feel him comfortable with his activity.
This is a new type of program. It is not just a conference. We actively participated the event with discussions and gain lot of knowledge. Also after completely finishing of this program we can serve the people who need help as a counselor. This was a very memorable day and a day for next meeting is not yet decided. But it will be a day in near future.

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