Encourage Children To Say No To drugs Abuse
This is no quick fix. There is no band-aid big enough for this life.” —Daniel Abbott, The Concrete
The story of an 18-year-old Shubam is a classic example of what is happening to our youth today and an eye-opener for us, especially parents. Shubam was a sincere student and loved by all at home and school. He was the only child of doting parents, who put him in a leading school and provided him all facilities. A car ferried him to school and back, he had private tutors at home who helped him with his homework and his parents left no stone unturned to keep him happy. But they never spoke to him about various life skills and soft skills needed by the youth today. They never taught him how to be emotionally strong and assertive. They never spoke of peer pressure, drugs and good behaviour. They loved him, but hardly communicated all this to him because they did not know this was important.
Shubam passed out of school with good grades and got admission in an Engineering college away from his hometown. He shifted to the hostel and then started his woes. He started his college life with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm. He had good and hard working friends initially but gradually he fell into bad company and his academic performance started dwindling.
He was often spotted in local pubs smoking, drinking and dancing with his girlfriends and peers. He was a bit hesitant about this life style initially but with no one to guide him, he gave in to peer pressure and started liking his new friends and their way of living. They had late night parties and missed classes. Shubam failed in his yearly exams but didn’t tell his parents about this and they were blissfully unaware of the situation. By now his alcohol intake had increased considerably and he had problems concentrating and driving. He felt disoriented and once he drove his car fast and slammed it into another car leading to his arrest for negligent driving. His friends deserted him and his college suspended him. They reported this to his parents and asked them to intervene.
The parents were in a state of shock when they realised how bad and explosive the situation was, but it was too late for them to repent now. Shubam was diagnosed with alcohol addiction and sent to a rehab centre for treatment. Such cases are very common today and come to us everyday for counselling and help. The figures are staggering. About 190 million people all over the world consume one drug or the other. About100 people die daily from drug overdose. This rate has tripled in the past 20 years.
Substance abuse is the abuse of any chemical substance(both legal and illegal drugs) in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods which are harmful to himself or to others.
Youth take drugs due to various reasons. Peer pressure makes them want to be accepted and fit in with his/her peers. They feel good by using the drugs, which interact with the neurochemistry of the brain. They also use substances to fight stress or depression because they feel these drugs will lessen their distress. They use them as a maladaptive coping strategy for stress management. Some think that the substances will improve their performance and they will fare better in the competitions they have to face.
Adolescents try to experiment and while the assertive youth stop after their initial trials, the emotionally weaker ones fall prey to this malady. They learn it from the social media and movies where the heroes who smoke and drink are appreciated. Some learn it from their parents whom they have seen consuming these at home.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA) indicates the following risk factors for developing drug abuse problems (typically seen in adolescence):
• Unstable home environment, often due to drug abuse or mental illness of the parent
• Poor relationship with parents
• Inadequate supervision over adolescent’s activities
• Use of drugs by friends / peers
• Permissive attitude towards their own drug use and the drug use of the adolescent
• Behavioural problems combined with poor parenting
• Poor achievement in school
• Apparent ambivalence or approval of drug use in the school, peer group or community
• Availability of drugs in the community, peer group or home
NIDA continues to use the term “addiction” to describe compulsive drug seeking despite negative consequences. It is a brain disorder.
Drug Addiction indicates a psychological or physical dependence on the drug to function and is characterised by the person developing compulsions, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms .
Addiction is a developmental chronic disease and it usually begins in childhood or adolescence and continues thereafter. In cases of addiction changes have been found in the brain’s natural inhibition and reward centers, and these stop a person from exerting any control on the impulse to take drugs, even when he knows that there are negative consequences like stigma and social disapproval attached to its use.
Addiction can affect us negatively in many ways. The short term effects include changes in appetite, wakefulness, heart rate, blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, psychosis, overdose, and even death. These health effects may occur after just one use. The long term effects can include heart or lung disease, cancer, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and addictions.Sometimes we face Social Stigma, unemployment, housing, relationships and criminal cases against the abusers.
When we see sudden changes in an adolescent’s behavior, like aggression or hostility for no apparent reason—or is withdrawn,excessively tired or depressed- it should be a wake-up call for the parents. Carelessness in daily grooming habits, decline in academic performance, missing classes, loss of interest in favourite activities, changes in eating or sleeping habits, deteriorating relations with family members and friends,spending or asking for more pocket money and signs of syringes or unknown medicine strips or cigarette stubs with the person are some of the signs of substance abuse.
PREVENTION IS THE BEST WAY TO SAVE OUR CHIlDREN:
The initial decision to take drugs is typically voluntary by the adolescent. Children should be empowered to say no to drugs in the initial stage itself. Children should be psycho-educated and empowered with adaptive coping skills, assertive skills, resilience skills and taught to have high self-esteem so that they can say no to drugs.
Parents need to recognise that their child is not behaving as he or she normally does. If he is taking drugs, then they should find out the underlying cause for this. There could also be an associated mental health or medical disorder.
A proper medical and mental checkup with all investigations is a must. Parents who are unable to understand the problem should take professional help from a trained psychologist.
If a child is already taking drugs immediate professional help and counselling is needed. Drug addiction is also preventable and manageable with medical help and professional counselling. It is a more difficult and lengthy procedure and consumes a lot of time, effort and money. Support of the family is very important.
MODEL: Julie Ray
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(The writer is a neuro-psychologist and CBSE counsellor)