A lot of school-going children (read aged between 10-15) are falling prey to substance abuse. At an age when they should be atop swings, playing games, learning computers and languages, they are passing time indulging in substances like thinner, charas, smack, cough syrup, iodex and whitener, etc.
Psychological studies suggest that this could be because this is a time for experimentation and identity-forming. But the shocking part of the story is that children as young as 10 and 11 are doing drugs, and contrary to popular notions, the affected ones are government school students and come from underprivileged sections.
According to Sharda Kumari, project director of Yuva Helpline of State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), under Ministry of HRD, nearly 50 per cent of boys staying in areas like Uttam Nagar, Sagarpur, Vishnu Garden, Seemapuri, Nandnagri, Seelampur are victims.
“We have recognised students of Std V and VI who are under the influence of drugs. They indulge in substances like thinner, a material called bhola goli and whiteners. The principals of these schools are the ones who inform us and then we counsel these kids.”
Cases of substance abuse have shot up and alarmingly so. Nobody knows the exact reason as to why kids take up drugs at such an early age but they do know how to spot them. “These kids are quite clever. They always try to hide themselves; shy away from groups; find ways to use washrooms more often than is necessary and some even carry a geometry box which contains a piece of cloth doused with thinner,” adds Sharda.
Inspite of being aware of the harmful effects, these youngsters continue this habit till their adolescence and adult life too. Comprehensive prevention and control programmes in schools targeting adolescents and their parents is the need of the hour.
Along with sex education, harmful affects of drugs and creating awareness about substance abuse, have also become a necessity in schools now.
Dr. Rajesh Kumar, executive director, Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM), an NGO working towards eradicating drug abuse, shares, “We provide effective measures to encourage shaping the attitudes of school kids toward self-confidence.
We have children who are caught by the police and produced in juvenile courts. After taking orders from the magistrate, we take these kids for rehabilitation. We have a minimum three-month programme which includes seven days for detox and rest for their rehabilitation, vocational skill development and even psychological help where needed. Most of the kids are from government and MCD schools who starts with
thinner in Std III and IV and eventually takes up ganja or smack,” adds Rajesh.
There are numerous situations that influence the likelihood of a child taking up use of substance. The reasons could range from an unhappy family life to peer pressure, with each offering both risk and protective factors.
Dr. Padm Nabh Vasudeva, a senior councillor at Yuva Helpline shares, “These kids take up substances to prove they have grown up. They want to prove their ‘manhood’ to peers and they want to do what elders are doing.”
But there are others who want to quit this addiction and set an example too. Deepak Sharma*, a Std X student studies in a government school and is the son of a rickshaw puller. “I was addicted to thinner, Kuber and beer for nearly four years. Now I am totally out of it because of rehabilitation. Today, I ask my friends to leave this addiction and lead a healthy life and I am able to concentrate on my studies.”
* Name changed on request