The writer discusses the need to take the issue of drug abuse seriously and calls for concerted efforts of family, society and the government to tackle this growing menace.
The growing use of drugs among youngsters is an undisputed fact globally. Drug abuse is the non-lenient consumption of harmful or life-threatening substances that can lead to physical or mental reliance. According to an estimate, 208 million people across the globe use illegal drugs, constituting 3.9 percent of the world’s total population. Twenty-three million people, above the age 12, are drug addicts who are not only putting their physical, emotional and mental health at stake but are also exposing people around them to grave implications; directly or indirectly.
Sources quote that almost 8.9 million people are addicted to drugs in Pakistan, a number that is increasing steadily. Moreover, almost 700 Pakistanis die each day due to drug-related complications, highlighting how the government has failed in addressing the increasing use of drugs among the masses.
What is Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction can be defined as a complex microbiological disease which needs an integrated treatment of the mind, body and spirit. Drugs cause changes in the structure and working of the brain and can have long-lasting consequences for the user. Addiction to drugs is chronic and progressive in nature, and if left untreated, can be fatal.
Some of the major reasons for drug addiction include lack of recreational and extra-curricular activities, the pressure to conform to societal norms, lack of acceptance by society and family, mental health concerns including, anxiety, depression, etc., inclination to escape from everyday problems and peer pressure, just to name a few.
Negative Health Implications
There are numerous negative health implications of drugs abuse. Continued drug use can deteriorate health, lead to withdrawal symptoms such as shakiness, trembling, sweating, nausea or fatigue, loss of control over body, heart rate irregularities, insomnia and sleep disorders, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, respiratory problems, kidney and liver damage, seizures, stroke, brain damage and changes in appetite just to name a few. Other negative implications of drug abuse can include financial distress (lose a job, debt, dependence on family members), relationship problems (less social interaction with family and loved ones, tensions with loved ones), and legal issues (fines, jail sentences).
Teenagers- the Most Vulnerable to Drug Abuse in Pakistan?
The escalating number of young addicts in universities, colleges and schools is an alarming concern that requires immediate attention. Recently, the Minister of State for Interior claimed almost 75 percent girls and 45 percent boys use crystal meth at some of the leading educational institutes in Islamabad. These figures coming from a top-notch government figure sparked undue controversy over social media platforms, where the minister was criticized for his “exaggerated and false” claim. Such impetuous statements by the minister highlight the non-serious attitude and approach of the government towards a grave matter. Even if the claims are true, highlighting the stats won’t do the job, as the stakes are pretty high.
Rehabilitation and Treatment Facilities
According to a report by the News, every year not more than 300 drug addicts can be treated simultaneously at leading hospitals in the country. Furthermore, public sector hospitals provide detoxification services to drug addicts and no rehabilitation services or medical treatments are available at the present moment. According to the findings of UNODC survey 2013, people seeking treatment for their addiction deemed private treatment centers better and more effective, while only 20 percent respondents expressed their trust over the governmental provisions. The results of the survey also indicated that a staggering 99.7 percent of respondents said the treatment was expensive and out of reach for them.
Role of Universities in Curbing Drug Addiction
Universities and students can work together to create awareness, purging this menace from society collectively. Drug awareness seminars should be organized to highlight the negative implications of drugs. Moreover, different NGOs and rehabilitation centers working with addicts should be invited to share drug success stories (youngsters who have succeeded in quitting drugs) with students, encouraging them to take a plunge. Moreover, special counselling departments should be established at education institutes across the country, in order to provide guidance and assistance to students facing psychological and emotional turbulence (depression, anxiety, and lack of attention of family members).
How Parents and Society can Come Together to Help Addicts
We live in a collectivist society, where addiction to drugs is not an individual battle but one that the entire family deals with. We live in a society where drug abusers are reluctant to seek professional assistance out of shame. Drug abuse is a taboo subject in Pakistan, where the middle or lower-middle-class families frown upon people consuming alcohol or drugs and hence go pear-shaped in providing their loved ones with the much needed emotional and mental navigation to quit these life-threatening substances.
Family and friends can play a pivotal role in curbing drug addiction. Getting your children to talk is vital, as teens who feel loved and supported are more likely to stop experimenting with drugs and can be convinced to seek professional help. Attention and affection from family members can save a number of youngsters from stepping into the euphoric world of drugs and addiction that leads to nowhere but darkness alone.