College students most vulnerable to drug abuse

College students most vulnerable to drug abuse

Parents must watch out for telltale signs, say psychiatrists

Those in their late teens and early youth are the most vulnerable to drug abuse and addiction, experts say. 

“Today, they are bad at interpersonal relationships, lack concentration and are into intimate relations which compels them to take to drugs,” says Dr Pratima Murthy, Psychiatrist, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) ahead of World Drug Abuse Day on June 26.

“The age group of 15 to 25 years is highly vulnerable and experimental. They take to recreational drugs which is being perceived as tolerated social behaviour, rather than a serious psychiatric disorder,” she says. She adds that young girls with boyfriends are often coerced to try drugs by their partners.

“That these children come from broken homes, some with absent fathers or parents employed elsewhere with no enforced discipline, makes them veer towards drugs,” says Dr Mahesh R Gowda, Consultant Psychiatrist and Managing Director of Spandana Health Care.

Parents must watch out for falling grades, change in their ward’s style of dressing like colouring hair and tattoos which are indicators that the child is trying to emulate someone, Dr Mahesh says. Such children also have a heightened perception of music and develop a taste for heavy metal, he says. Cannabis is also easily available and affordable, he says.

Psychiatrist Dr Vivek Benegal of NIMHANS adds that apart from being impulsive and distracted, such children, who are actually good at academics, find it difficult to sustain their motivation. He says that taking drugs does normalise their anxieties but over a period of time it alters the functioning of the brain and also their behaviour to an extent that their mind only seeks drugs.

What govt can do

The government is trying to mitigate the problem by creating public awareness. However, by merely prohibiting drugs, the demand chain is increasing leading to illegal ways of procuring it. Psychiatrists in the city feel the government must ensure that the war on drugs is fought by rethinking ways of looking at the problem.

Dr Benegal says that India must take a leaf from Uruguay and Portugal and more recently Canada to remove criminal penalties for drug use and instead invest in treatment options as a logical evolution of drug policy. There is a need to treat it like a medical issue not a criminal one and ensure that there are more treatment centres, adds Dr Pratima.

‘My addiction ruled’

Ramesh, 28, took to ganja quite out of curiosity and thought it was legal to smoke pot. The first time he had it, he was on a high and then began taking it regularly. Sometimes he had no money for it but then began to manipulate his family and lie at home to fulfil his addiction. “I realised that my addiction was not allowing me to touch base with reality and I was becoming insensitive. I then sought help,” Ramesh says.

Stress buster
Subash, 23, tried brown sugar and cannabis at the age of 16 when his friends introduced him to drugs as a means to beat stress after playing basketball. He did give it up but kept going back to the addiction. He adds that since cannabis was easily available around the Ambedkar stadium in Basaveshwaranagar, we would smoke after playing our game. “The drugs helped my levels of concentration and I could remember things better but I realised that I was becoming aggressive and thus sought help,” he says. “I was also cheated by a girl and had wanted to kill her which is why I enrolled at a de-addiction centre,” he adds.
Subash laments that drugs destroyed his mind. and his skin looks old.

‘I sought maturity’
Raghu was curious to try ganja for the fun of it. “I saw that most of my friends were in a happy space after taking drugs and so I took to it to gain maturity,” Raghu says.
At the de-addiction centre for the third time, he says he wants to quit smoking cannabis for good because he wants to focus on his career.
“I want to discover myself since I am tired of living a deceitful life,” he says.

Mood swings
Negative emotions 
(anger, sadness, trauma)

*Some names have been changed on request