The journey of drug abuse usually begins with a statement as casual as:
” It’s just a single puff, yaar“
However, that one puff can often have lasting repercussions for the people who relish those toxic substances. They slowly get consumed in a trap of mental and physical illnesses. In 2013, UN reports showed that around 6.7 million people in Pakistan are drug addicts.
With the numbers soaring high with the passage of time, we must accept that drug abuse is indeed a threatening problem in Pakistan. It’s high time we stop shoving it under the carpet. That too, just because we seem to care more about what people will say and less about those who suffer from this problem.
Some of the most commonly used, and abused drugs in Pakistan include Opium, heroin, or bhang– a special drink that is made up of the leaves of cannabis. These strong and very addictive drugs give immediate feelings of euphoria. This is soon followed by a lowering heart rate and a sense of grogginess that creeps over the entire body. According to a rough estimate, around 44 tons of processed heroin is either smoked or injected in Pakistan each year. What’s more troublesome is the fact that heroin abuse reportedly started at the critical age of 15. Moreover, majority heroin users are between the ages of 15-64.
With respect to gender stratification, 78% men and 22% women are substance abusers. Where men majorly prefer to use cannabis/opiates, women opt for tranquilizers and sedatives.
The high prevalence of drugs means there is major supply chain in place that initiates somewhere. That somewhere happens to be our neighbor, Afghanistan, which has fields of opium poppy and cannabis. A UNODC report estimates that around 40% of drugs, mainly comprising of heroin and chars are produced in Afghanistan and routed through Pakistan.
So where Pakistan is involved in the export of these drugs, it also becomes a great substance abuser for the massive supply of cannabis available at a domestic level. The concentration of these drugs is observed in areas that are closest to Afghanistan.
There are different psychological, biological and cultural reasons behind drug addiction. The fact that some drugs like cocaine and heroin are addictive in nature means that the person needs an added amount of that particular drug the next time they use it. This continued increase in the amount of drug being consumed brings a euphoric feeling that is exhilarating initially but dies down very quickly. It is that “feel good” state of mind that the substance abusers continue to crave. They believe that it not only makes them more alert and active later on, but it also helps them deal with the economic/social problems they suffer from.
What clouds their judgment is this belief that using drugs will solve their issues. When the reality is far from this. Drug intake not only makes the person distant from reality but it just delays the process of dealing with the problems at hand. The problems stay right there, while the addict comes one step closer to a catastrophic end. Some may take heavy drugs to combat serious diseases. But the drug must be administered under strict control in order to prevent the patient from developing an addiction and an immunity to the medicine.
The most prevalent reason for drug abuse, however, is perhaps socio-cultural pressure. Since there are hardly any drug awareness campaigns that run in schools and colleges, it has increasingly become easier for students to take hold of drugs. Especially if the school staff-either administrators or the janitorial members become a part of this drug scam.
Drug abuse prevention is not easy. Especially, if drug availability is linked to the lack of drug policing on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. However, the first step can be easily taken at home, by the parents. They must start talking about drugs in a constructive manner with their children. Instead of constantly scaring them off and repeatedly telling them not to indulge in drug usage, it is important to detail why this habit is so unhealthy for children to develop in the first place.
This is linked to the idea that drug addiction can’t be looked at in isolation. There are numerous social, cultural, economic and political reasons why drug abuse is such a big problem. And, until these structural inequalities are looked at in detail, the problem will continue to persist.
Lastly, it is important to focus on investing in drug addiction treatments. This is something Dost Welfare Foundation has been doing since 1992. It is imperative to understand that maybe addiction is prevalent because the treatment is expensive. Or maybe because there is an unavailability of the drugs needed to treat the patients. It could also be that patients are not diagnosed at the right time and admitted to the rehab centers when they should be. If more focus and effort is put in providing humane treatment facilities to the patients, there is no doubt that drug abuse in our country will be controlled.
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