He started consuming heroin last year when in Class IX. “He joined a group of boys older than him and started smoking. He was later introduced to heroin and gradually became addicted to it,” said a doctor at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Science (PGIMS), Rohtak. He was recently brought to the State Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (SDDTC) at the local PGIMS by his father.
Substance abuse, also referred to as drug abuse, is a contagion that is fast consuming the adolescents and youth in India. According to official reports released in 2019 about 14.6% of the population (between 10 and 75 year of age) uses alcohol. After Alcohol, Cannabis and Opioids are the next commonly used substances in India. About 2.8% of the population (3.1 crore individuals) are reported of having used cannabis product in 2018. Urbanization, Industrialization, absence of parental love, strains of modern life, dwindling confidence have led the individual vulnerable. To escape the hard realities of life, the number of drug addicts has intensified. This is alarming.
Metro Hospitals in Faridabad stated in their 2018 reports, ‘63% of substance abuse begins in childhood and 13% are below 20 years of age’. Sometimes volatile substance is also used by children that can easily be found in nearby stores such as glue, cough syrup, pain relief ointments etc. With drug users beginning early at the age group of 18 to 35 years, the physical, psychological and cognitive damage caused by these drugs are catastrophic not just to the individual but to the entire family and the nation. It is estimated that 50% of the children before they reach the ninth grade have tried one of these substances.
On 7th December 1987, United Nations of General Assembly decided to observe 26th June as International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. It is an exercise to spread awareness about drug abuse and illegal drug trade, to achieve a drug-free society. The drug trade has a turnover of around $500 billion and 190 million people are consuming this drug. It is also one of third largest business in the world. Considering the damage, it is causing to the adolescents and youths around the world, it is high time schools and educational institutions took up the case of creating awareness of this menace in a systematic manner.
Since most of these abuses begin in childhood, what better opportunity can there be than to treat this in their early years of life. Department of Education in collaboration with Diageo and Pernord Ricard India Charitable foundation developed a game-based programme, ‘Cool Teens’ to raise classroom awareness on substance abuse through a series of digital games. Implemented by IL&FS Education, the entire programme is handled in the context of psycho-social problems faced by youngsters.
The game exhibits how a devil traps a person with questions, puzzles and riddles and the player must ensure that they stay away from the clutches of alcohol and substance abuse by adopting right attitude, strategy and precautions. The core-concept of the game is to handle peer pressure by saying ‘no’ to an exciting, yet misleading request. It was designed for the higher secondary students and to sensitize them on the psycho-social problems. The content of the game was available in five different languages – English, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Telegu. IL&FS Education reached more than 1.5 lakh students across Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Telegu.
As intricate the problem of Drug abuse is, there is no easy way out. Eventually, it depends entirely on the individual to choose mind over drug and not the other way around.
2. By the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in coalition with National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi ]