Drug Abuse Among Children and Youth
Pr. Emmanuel P. G.
There is no dearth of researches or statistics on the extent, gravity and miseries of drug abuse and addiction, especially among children and youth. No special alert is required to make people aware of the urgency to get rid of this danger. It has already become a major concern of parents, governments, school authorities and organizations as they fight the greatest enemy of humanity that shipwrecks tender lives before they blossom and grow.
To see the drug devil suck the blood (and life) of the blooming buds is the most heartbreaking of all sights. Wailing mothers and fathers stand stunned as they see their dreams shatter beyond repair. But at the outset, I assure you there is hope for the one who looks to Jesus Christ, who alone brings a message of resurrection from death.
Call to Wisdom
Use of alcohol and drugs, the idea of ‘getting high’ are habits as old as human civilization. Any addiction is like a mortal pest that paralyses the vitality of people. Rather than merely present alarming rates of facts and figures, this article aims at helping children and youth, the cream of our generation to flee from the addiction highway!
The Bible portrays the miserable plight of people who were addicted to wine/drugs. It is a choice between the way of death and the way of life; a choice that existed in the Garden of Eden. The book of Proverbs powerfully warns people not to be attracted by the color of wine, as it destroys the vigor and efficiency of kings, and speeds their way to destruction.
The book of Proverbs in its very opening paragraph addresses the youth in Golden terms that these are written for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young; to let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance (vs. 4,5). This article is a trumpet call to the young not to fall prey or go anywhere near the firing range of this enemy of humanity - the drug devil.
Volunteers to Death
Drug = despair, destruction, defeat, depression, damnation and death.
No one has ever gotten better because of drug misuse, but rather it has made their lives miserable and their future disfigured. The world wails over those miserable millions whose lives got destroyed in this hell fire of addiction.
It was estimated that in the early 2000’s in India, 50% of boys who reached ninth grade, had tried at least one of the gateway drugs such as marijuana (bhang), pot (ganja), heroin or other forms of narcotics or even alcohol. A wide variety of commonly used substances are made from a combination of tobacco, betel leaf and areca nut, locally called pan parag, supari, Sambu, kuber, hans, mostly used by high school and college students, often unknown to parents or teachers.
Tobacco is often the first drug used by young people before they graduate to stronger and other stronger drugs and alcohol.
In 1980’s the male female ratio of drug users in India was 8:2. Even today boys are more prone to substance abuse than girls, but the general percent of both the sexes has gone up sharply from 25 to 50.
A recent data states: among those involved in drug and substance abuse in India, 13.1 per cent are below 20 years.
A recent report of Alcoholic and Drug Information Centre in India says, in Kerala children start using alcohol at the age of 13.5.
A study from the US in the latter quarter of 1990’s raises an alarm with the following warnings
In the next twenty four hours, 15,006 teens will use drugs for the first time.
Every 4 minutes a youth is arrested for an alcohol related crime.
Every 7 minutes a youth is arrested for a drug crime.
Nature of Drugs Used
1. Among the drugs excluding alcohol and tobacco, two-third students use depressants (pain-killers, tranquilizers and barbiturates), one-fourth use narcotics (cannabis, cocaine and opium) and one-tenth use stimulants and hallucinogens.
2. The “down” drugs (sedatives, tranquilisers and pain-killers) are more popular than “up” drugs (stimulants) showing thereby that the young people wish to “go to sleep” rather than to “wake up”.
Teens who drink and take drugs are more likely to have sex. Those who take drugs on a regular basis are more likely to be sexually active, according to a new study from Canada. The same study also found that sexually active girls are at higher risk for attempted suicide.
Sex and addiction
A US report says -Sixty percent of college women diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease were drunk at the time of infection. (Advocacy Institute, 1992)
Drugs remove inhibition and impair judgment, causing one to commit offences. Incidences of eve-teasing, group clashes, looting houses, assault, highway robbery, smuggling, quotation killings, impulsive murders etc are mostly resultant of drug abuse.
Apart from affecting the financial stability, addiction increases conflicts and causes untold emotional pain for every member of the family.
At the national level, drug abuse is intrinsically linked with racketeering, conspiracy, corruption, illegal money transfers, terrorism and violence threatening the very stability of governments. Increase in incidences of HIV, hepatitis B and C and tuberculosis due to addiction adds the reservoir of infection in the community burdening the health care system further.
Women in India face greater problems from drug abuse that include domestic violence and infection with HIV, besides financial instability. Eighty seven per cent addicts being treated in a de-addiction center, run by the Delhi police acknowledged to being violent with family members.
The number of smokers in the Indian schools and colleges has considerably decreased since many have adopted other forms of tobacco available in chewable form, less identifiable, stronger in effect and in different flavors.
Watch your children
Parents are usually unaware about their children hooked on to drugs. You can watch out for tell-tale signs, such as, blood-shot eyes, irritability, involvement in anti-social activities, aloofness or spending a lot of time in their rooms and a decline in academic performance.
* Other possible behavorial patterns to be taken as an alarm are:
* Having drugs or drug paraphernalia
* Medications or alcohol missing from your home or the home of family members or friends
* A change in friends, or hanging out with friends who use drugs
* Slow, slurred speech or talking unusually fast and jumping from subject to subject
* Lack of concern with appearance or hygiene
* Unexplained change in weight
* Lying or acting sneaky
* Not caring about risks, consequences, or the future
* Being disrespectful or aggressive toward family members or family rules and values
* Showing signs of depression or withdrawal
* Defensiveness when questioned about activities or drug use
* Losing interest in favorite activities 2
Also, teens using drugs often need money to procure more drugs and some signs that show their desperation for money for drugs include:
* Valuables missing from your home
* Possession of unexplained money or valuables
* Trouble with the law - or teen violence
* Stealing money or drugs
* Borrowing money
* Always being broke even if they have an allowance or a job
It is best to start talking to your teens about the dangers of drug use before they have a problem, but if you think your teen is using drugs, it’s important to talk to them right away. Teens need help to overcome their teen drug abuse.
Who are the Drug Users?
1. Affluent students tend to experiment with drugs more than those who come from lower socio-economic strata of the population?
2. Those in the 16–21 age group are more susceptible to such habits – mostly in their initial years of college, when away from home.
3. Incidence of drug use among students living in hostels and rented rooms is more than among those living with parents and relatives.
Why are Drugs Taken?
1. A large number of students use drugs for recreation and to seek pleasure, often like the prodigal son.
2. Peer-self-esteem - Many guys and girls do so to prove themselves as heroes / heroines in the campus. A Malayalam periodical reported some sixth graders who carried from home alcohol mixed with soft drinks and distributed to school friends. Alcohol has become part of culture, fashion and status symbol, especially during celebrations.
3. A few consume drugs to escape from stress. Among young people, those with poor grades low self-image, familial stress are most likely to begin using drugs.
4. Some engage themselves in this addiction more as a form of rebellion and revenge – they are often taken for psychological reasons than for social and/or physical reasons.
5. The home is also the primary source where sons of alcoholic men have a 25% chance of becoming an alcoholic themselves.
6. Availability of drugs is another major factor that leads children to temptation.
More than 40% of teens who admitted drinking said they drink when they are upset; 31% said they drink alone; 25% said they drink when they are bored; and 25% said they drink to “get high.” (U.S. Surgeon General, 1991)
Conditioning Factors in Drug Use
a) After developing the habit of drug use, about three-fifths of the users remain keen to withdraw from drug usage while about two-fifths do not possess such keenness.
b) Children enjoy more freedom and less care due to disintegration of the old family/joint family system, absence of parental love and care in modern families and the resultant decline of religious and moral values.
c) The most vulnerable of the children are those living on the streets who are deprived of parental care and end up as child laborers.
d) Siblings are frequently a source of alcohol and drugs for younger siblings.
It is found that 70.3% of those addicted kids have been first exposed to one or the other form of drugs by their friends and relatives, 11.7% by their parents.
Though hard to fight drug use among teens, it can be done. Once addicted, very few are may be able to come out of this addiction on their own. De-addiction is a long process and requires time, patience, support and love.
The more risky or less accepted a drug is thought to be; the less likely it will be used by teens. Physical risks include addiction; social risks include disappointing friends or family, and losing.
Parental involvement plays a vital role in restoring addicted children. The strongest decline in drug use occurred when parents and guardians were talking to their kids about the risks of drug use, and the kids were exposed to anti-drug messages in the media.
Rick Kosterman, a research scientist with the University of Washington’s Social Development Research Group said, “We found that good parenting can make a big difference in preventing early substance use and abuse. Responsible parenting brings with it clear family rules, consistent values and moderate discipline.” Parents must take care to-
* Give children unconditional love.
* Try parenting with patience and generosity.
* Practice positive behaviors.
* Respect the uniqueness of the child.
So understand that “preventing substance abuse among teens is primarily a Mom and Pop operation,” says CASA Chairman Joseph Califano.
There are considerable numbers of children who flee bad company and bad habits as they understand how dangerous these habits are.
We must thank God for the 50 percent (millions) who refrain from tasting drugs deliberately. Blessed are those who ‘believe without seeing’. These millions declare that there is still hope for those who are in the trap.
The process of de-addiction is strenuous, but still possible and the victims require compassionate support.
The desire for drugs is like the temptation in the Garden of Eden for the forbidden fruit, and the result of trying it is lasting death. Trying it is like buying a flight ticket to abyss, from where only few have crawled out. Many try it out of curiosity and for adventure. But the misadventure leads to addiction which is like playing in the Niagara waterfalls beyond ‘the point of no return’. But thank God for Jesus Christ who offers a ‘new life’, even for the worst of the sinners – for anyone who looks to Jesus and accepts Him.
There is still a way open from heaven, through Jesus Christ, for all those who really look unto Him for help.