Youngsters and Substance Abuse

Posted on July 3, 2010

Gunveen Chadha:

“Ecstasy is a drug that boys use to mix in girls drink so that the girl does not remember anything that happens at night but only gets to know 9 months later.”

I was shocked when I heard incorrect information being yelled out to me by a 12 year old boy when I was giving only my fourth workshop for the anti-substance abuse campaign. The class of 20 students were always excited to interact with me, they loved to have interactions that they could not have with other elders. I wrote down DRUGS in capitals on the blackboard to which I heard uproar in the class like never before. All of a sudden everyone was yelling the names of the drugs. Interesting revelations were made like the senior students do drugs and are considered cool by the girls. Girls would giggle at statements like this and say that senior boys have a style and look handsome while they drive their cars and smoke. This was a turning point in my life as I realised that when I and my peers were of that age, we had never even heard the word DRUGS. One of the most challenging issues I faced was to answer a 13 year old girl when she stated bluntly in the class that her parents smoke and drink and parents are always right, then who was I to say that these things harmed the body?  I recalled how adamant I used to be when it came to anything that pointed fingers at my parents but gradually learnt that our elders also make mistakes.

My desire to positively contribute in alleviating this dangerous practice found a resonance in the “I Decide” campaign by UNODC hosted in our school. Leading this program for my High School in 2007-2009 made me realize how prevalent and serious this problem is, in India and, in our very school.

Substance Abuse as misunderstood by many does not only refer to the use of “Alcohol, Tobacco or Drugs” but translates to misusing any substance. It could also be sniffing petrol or whitening fluids.

As I dig deeper into the issue I found that the children today are not only exposed to all sorts of things they shouldn’t be but have easy access to them with incorrect information. Internet does not provide all accurate information about drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex as a lot of manufacturers are selling their products online. Often, if you type a name of a drug to search it might open up a porn site. The question is should children at a tender age be exposed to all this stuff; if knowledge is important then WHY are parents shying away from talking openly to their children; Why are these children being lectured to stay away from the stuff rather than being told the actual pros and cons, Why is it that it is easy for these children to believe what they hear from elder students at school and why are these children shying away from their loved ones if they indulge in an act they like?

We administered surveys to get better insight into the students’ minds and their thinking. The astonishing response was some found drinking was cool. The most surprising revelation was that a large number of students were afraid to talk to their parents. One student pointed out that his mother had told him clearly never to smoke or do drugs because if she found out she would disown him. Other students in the classroom quietly nodded their heads and confirmed to me that they were scared of their parents not loving them anymore. Are parents to scare their children and not provide information to help them not indulge in such activities? Shouldn’t parents guide their children out of substance abuse, if the child ends up being a victim, or should they disown him and make his life even more pathetic?

I keep questioning why; why do people especially children do it? For a five minute high, is it really worth putting everything on the line, family, friends and oneself? I fail to understand that despite knowing the ill effects, why do they still continue? It’s not that problems disappear by using these substances; basically one is postponing taking responsibility and action and damaging oneself in the process.

Once I read somewhere that “weak individuals become addicts”, but what I believe is that addicts become weak individuals. People do not consider whitening fluids, sniffing of petrol, drinking cough syrups or licking glue as harmful substances, but if inhaled, they can give the user a ‘high’ & lead to addiction, causing brain damage. Research indicates that four out of five people who receive treatment never manage to kick the habit but relapse. Thus, prevention is better than cure.

Being blessed, we should endeavour to make a difference to the society, the world that we live in by making sure that we have given our one hundred percent to help trigger a thought process in the minds of the people.

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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