Teenage drug addiction
MEET MRINAL from Kanpur. He is 16 years old and has already been to a rehabilitation centre. He started drinking and smoking since he was 13. Meet Manoj and Vijay from Delhi, aged 17. They are famous among their group for throwing big parties with unlimited flow of alcohol and marijuana.
These characters have not been pulled out from any Bollywood movies or fiction. Unfortunately, they are ‘real’ children who see no wrong in abusing substances and drugs. Rather, without any remorse, they feel that by doing so, they are confirming to the ‘cool’ image. And this phenomenon is no longer limited to cities or within a particular section of society. Worse, it is fast catching popularity among today’s children.
Exposure and addiction to alcohol, tobacco (gutka), sedatives sold over medical counters despite regulations, sniffing of inhalants such as glue, whitener are posing a serious problem. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) report titled ’The Tobacco Use and Control Efforts’, 9.7 per cent teenage girls in India use some form of tobacco. Similarly, 17.3 per cent teenage boys have taken to smoking. The study also revealed that tobacco use in India started at quite a young age and in many cases at schools. 14.1 per cent of youngsters consume tobacco products like cigarettes and bidis.
What prompts these teenagers to experiment with substance and drug abuse? Experts point out to various reasons: To kill boredom, to be accepted by peers, to escape from family problems or to relieve the tension of not performing well academically. Also, taking drugs or abusing substances is seen to be the easiest route to gain popularity and feel accepted. The matter is further compounded with parents getting to spend less time with their children and trying to compensate it by giving allowances and fulfilling their every demand.
Kukreja (name changed), a counsellor with a Delhi based rehabilitation centre revealed that children as young as 13 years are coming for treatment and counselling for alcohol and tobacco addiction. He further highlighted that besides friends, peers and celebrity ‘movie icons’, parents and family members were also evolving as factors responsible for initiating the child to experiment with drugs. The child gets confused to see his role models (parents) drinking and smoking and tries to imitate the same without realising that drug habit once initiated continues to stay. “I used to often see my parents drinking. Out of curiosity, I started sipping the leftover drink from my father’s glass,” shared a student.
An official from a reputed non governmental organisation (NGO) revealed that in order to establish bonds and create a feeling of parent-child-friendship, some parents were in fact encouraging children to join them in their social drinking sessions. This may come as a shocking piece of news, but sadly this is true.
Taneja (name changed), an event manager and mother of two children, sees no problem when her teenage son occasionally indulges with beer. “These days, all kids in their teenage years drink on social occasions. We have to change our mindset accordingly. I invite my children to drink with me and this has increased our bonding. They share everything with me right from their girlfriends, crushes, etc. It’s not as if they are becoming addicts,” she explains.
We all know that drug abuse of any kind is harmful and addiction is an unpredictable event. Since adolescence is a period of transition and growing up, children are bound to experiment. Let us admit it that teenagers are likely to experiment with sex, drugs, alcohol, even clothes and makeup on the fast track to adulthood.
The big question is what are we as parents, teachers or concerned citizen going to do about it? Banning drugs, brushing the subject or even keeping children away from them is definitely not a solution. What we need to do is discuss this subject openly, share facts and information on drugs with the child, clear myths and misconceptions associated with drug use, impart the child with refusal and negotiation skills so that when he is offered drugs, he can firmly and politely say, “No thank you, I have better things in life to do.”
* Names have been changed