Ghana is one of the most affected countries in the sub-region by issues of drug use, trafficking and drug production, with the youth being the most affected by this phenomenon. According to the 2014 statistics from the Ghana Narcotic Control Board (NACOB) about 70% of youth engage in drug use.
Unfortunately, the criminal justice approach drives these youths away from their family, community, needed support which eventually leads them to social exclusion.
This situation attracted the attention of some students from the University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ghana who came together as Students for Drug Policy Reform (SDPR) who are concerned about the impact of drugs and drug policies on youth, individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole.
The main objective of these students-led movement is to bring young people together and create a safe civic space for students of all political and ideological stripes to have honest conversations about drugs and drug policies in Ghana.
Some Members of the Students for Drug Policy reform (SDPR)
The students for Drug Policy Reform (SDPR) seeks to (1) Create awareness among the youth on the effects of drugs and advocate for the rehabilitation and treatment of those with problematic drug use, (2) Sensitise the general population by creating awareness through social media and traditional media such as radio stations, newspapers and television stations on the impact of drugs and also the need to support people who have problematic drug use rather than punishing them; and (3) Visit various schools and educate them on the consequences of drug use on the youth.
In line with this, the members of the Students for Drug Policy Reform were invited to make a presentation at the “Third Mental Health Well-being Conference” held on the 17th to 19th October,2016 at the University of Cape Coast campus.
The presentation was in two forms; Poster and PowerPoint presentations on the theme “Support, Don’t Punish; Drug Policy, Public Health and Human Rights”.
Member of the Student for the Drug Policy Reform with their poster
At the end, their brilliant presentations received a tremendous applause from the participants present and won them the best poster and presentation of the event.
These awards are great boosters on their advocacy journey to drug policy reforms that focus on reducing the harmful consequences on individuals, families and the vulnerable in society.
Following this, the young activists were given another invitation to attend and speak on “The Need for Drug Policy Reforms in Ghana” at a symposium on the 22nd of October 2016 at the University of Health and Allied Sciences main campus in Ho, in the Volta Region of Ghana.
This will be another great opportunity for them to call for evidence-based drug policy, fight the stigma attached to illicit drug abusers which has automatically tagged them as a criminals and to encourage other students from other campuses to start similar campaigns across the country.