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Drug abuse among Pakistani youth rises to alarming level

By Muhammad Qasim
June 26, 2018

Rawalpindi: Youngsters in Pakistan are the most affected by drugs and alcohol and the number of these addicts is increasing at the rate of 40,000 per year making Pakistan one of the most drug affected countries in the world while the most disturbing fact is that majority of heroin addicts are under the age of 24.

The growing trend of drug abuse in educational institutions has posed a serious threat to the lives and health of students as the college and university students use drugs freely and openly.

According to one survey, one out of every 10 college/university students is a drug addict and almost 50 per cent students of different educational institutions particularly elite schools/colleges in Islamabad/Lahore are addicted to drugs, and majority of these students belong to elite class, having no issue of affordability.

Head of Community Medicine at CMH Lahore Medical College Professor Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Chaudhry expressed this while talking to ‘The News’ in connection with United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking that falls on June 26 every year around the globe. He said the drug abuse jeopardises students’ health, both physically and mentally, because of which they cannot concentrate on their studies. “The widespread availability of drugs in Pakistan is making souls of youth lifeless and it is need of the hour to come up with effective measures to curb this menace.”

The United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is observed on June 26 each year to raise awareness of the major problem that illicit drugs represent to the society. Each year the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) selects theme for the day. Building on the success of last year, the theme for 2018 is: “Listen First”. Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe.

“Listen First” is an initiative to increase support for prevention of drug use that is based on science and is thus an effective investment in the well-being of children and youth, their families and their communities.

Dr. Ashraf said majority of drug addicts usually start with soft drugs like chhaliya, gutka and pan, and then move to hard drugs like heroin, opium and cocaine, etc. The purchase of drugs or alcohol by young people is usually through dealers or ‘agents’, who are just a phone call away and their numbers are easily exchanged from one person to another, , he said.

There are evidences that the contact numbers of drugs dealers and agents are also widely distributed throughout hostels, hotels and other places that are generally hidden from the eyes of law enforcing agencies, he said.

He added the reason why the number of drug addicted people is increasing alarmingly is that the drug cartels in Pakistan are fully backed and supported by the powerful and the wealthy that have got ample influence. Apparently, police and drug mafia are colluding. Moreover, illicit drugs are easily, and cheaply available everywhere in Pakistan. There is a dealer on every corner. Loopholes in the criminal justice create opportunities for the drug traffickers to evade justice, said Dr. Ashraf.

He said researches have proved that people who start smoking cigarettes and or drink alcohol at a young age are much more likely to experiment with illegal drugs than people who do not smoke or drink. Efforts should be made to control tobacco smoking in the country because it is gateway to drug abuse. Academic pressures in schools and parents expectations and consequently depression also force students to start drugs, he said.

He added that parents can recognize their addict children by noting symptoms including deep body emaciation, strong loss of appetite, difficulty in breathing and fatigue, strong nervous disturbance, long home absences, much money demand, telling lie to get money, isolation, remaining away from others, long sleeping time, laziness, pale face, tremors in fingers, constipation, irregularities in work and studies, no interest in everyday life, red eyes, slurred speech, circles under the eyes, neglect of personal hygiene and marks and traces of abusing on the body. The time parents see the above symptoms in their child, they should immediately seek treatment for the child, said Dr. Ashraf.