By Nimrat Kaur
There is a worldwide consensus that misuse of narcotics and psychoactive substances is on the rise, and India is no exception to this. The numbers of drug users and addicts is growing day by day.
According to a UN report, there are an estimated 10.7 million Indians who use narcotics, with two million using opiates like heroin. Cannabis, heroin, and Indian-produced pharmaceutical drugs are the most frequently abused drugs in India.
The incidence of drug abuse among children and adolescents is just a little lower than in the general population. According to studies, 12% of drug addicts fall below the age of 15 years. This is notably because youth is a time for experimentation and identity forming.
The problem in India is that there are no substantial sensitisation programmes about drug abuse in schools or for children out of school. There is also a high incidence of charging children under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.
Children who, at times, don’t have access to high quality drugs will use volatile substances easily found in corner stores such as cough syrups, pain relief ointments, glue, paint, gasoline and cleaning fluids.
There are very few to no health centers that deal with child substance abuse problems, especially in rural areas. The use of tobacco is another major concern amongst children. In India nearly 5,500 children and teens are drawn into tobacco addiction every day. The number is shocking when compared to the 3000 a day of new child smokers in the US.
But the main question that arises is why Indian society is experiencing such a dilemma, where teenagers and youths are involved in unproductive activities like substance or drug abuse. Sheer pressure of studies on students might be one of the reasons that results in substance abuse among youngsters. The education system, nowadays, is very competitive and lacks flexibility, with lakhs of students appearing for few thousand seats. Again, there is always a parental burden which adds to the pressure of making it big academically.
It might begin with experimenting. A friend or a loved one may have tried it once out of curiosity, because of friends or just to cope with a problem. In the early stages, one might really find it helpful to erase some problems and make one’s life better. This leads to more and more consumption of drugs. But as addiction reaches a step further, it becomes more of a need rather than just a problem solver. Even simple issues that can easily be solved will result in drug use, because one is so used to it that one just cannot think of anything without them.
Women in India face greater problems from drug abuse than men do, though these sex differences do not always show up clearly in official statistics, say studies. A study, released by the United Nations International Drug Control Programme and India's Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, says that abuse of drugs has a serious impact on women as mothers, wives, and sisters of misusers, but this aspect has not been adequately addressed. The qualitative study, which was conducted in eight centres across India, looked at 179 women aged 18-60 years with a male relative who misused drugs. Besides violence and financial problems, women bear a major burden of blame – they are held responsible for for drug abuse by male members, of hiding the issue, and of not getting timely treatment. They often become victims not just of drug abusers but also of society, says the report.
The Indian government has taken a significant step to help alcohol and drug abusers by launching a national toll-free helpline number – 1800-11-0031, to set in motion its plan to eradicate the menace of drug abuse from the country and assist existing victims in successful rehabilitation.
The government has also initiated strategies to help drug abusers. The main strategy is to empower society and the community to deal with the problem of drug abuse. The approach is to recognise drug abuse as a psycho-socio-medical problem, which can be best handled through community-based interventions of three different levels: Firstly, by encouraging drug abstinence and alcohol moderation. Secondly, by facilitating the process of behaviour change of high-risk individuals by the individuals themselves, with early identification of troubled people, counselling and early assistance. Thirdly by treatment, rehabilitation and proper reintegration of recovering addicts into the mainstream, which would result in the fast recovery of the individual abusing drugs.
Widespread drug abuse can be prevented if the people of India put in a sincere effort toward eradicating this problem. After all, it is the people who must learn to fight their own problems.
Nimrat Kaur studies in Class 9 at The Global Edge School. This article has been chosen from thoughts penned down by school students from Hyderabad who are delegates of the Harvard Model United Nations (HMUN) India conference. HMUN is co-hosted by Worldview Education and The International Relations Council.