Drugs, once considered the bane of the destitute, have now taken their toll on the Pakistani youth across the economic spectrum. According to the Anti-Narcotics Force, Pakistan is home to about 9 million drug addicts, out of which a startling 2 million are between the ages of 15 and 25. Moreover, one out of every ten students at a college or university is a drug addict.
The question is, why has there been such a sharp rise of young drug abusers lately and what could be done to improve the situation? The answer lies in knowing the factors that lead to drug abuse, the effects of drugs on society and preventive measures to curb this menace.
Our research has identified peer pressure, stress and anxiety faced by low socioeconomic class, depression due to a sudden adversity, unemployment, social isolation, modern lifestyle, curiosity and easy accessibility of drugs as the factors leading to the rise of drug abuse among the youth of Pakistan. The drugs of preference in Pakistan are Hash, sedatives and tranquillizers, heroin, opium, ecstasy tablets and solvents. While the use of tranquillizers and sedatives is on the rise because they can be bought at any pharmacy without prescription, the alarming rate of usage of hardcore drugs can be attributed to a porous border shared with Afghanistan which is home to the world’s largest opium producing fields. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the annual revenue generated by Afghan opiate trafficking to and through Pakistan exceeds $1billion.
Drug abuse is known to lead to a number of health problems. Drug abusers are more likely to be prone to hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular diseases, suicide and death due to overdose. Children of drug abusers are also more likely to be born mentally retarded and physically handicapped. Moreover, drugs cause the economic breakdown of families and social life. They force abusers to indulge into crimes like theft and end up losing self-confidence and the will to work.
The common symptoms associated with drug abuse among children are massive loss in appetite, fatigue, lying to get money, red eyes, slurred speech, falling grades, signs of abuse on the body, disinterest in everyday life and long home absences. If parents see any such signs then they need to be aware that their child might be in the habit of taking drugs. Parents should deal with such situations by contacting addiction treatment units instead of trying to forcefully cut off their child from drugs which could lead to detoxification or extreme withdrawal symptoms (manifested due to abrupt discontinuation of drug intake) that might make the child prone to suicide. It must be emphasised that rehabilitation is a gradual process and an addict can’t be forced to quit drugs overnight as his body is chemically dependent on drugs.
Drug abuse is a pertinent issue and demands systematic measures on the part of government, society, media and youth itself to be catered to. In order to deal with this problem, there needs to be stricter border control along the Pak-Afghan border so that the supply routes of drugs can be blocked. Police in Pakistan should carry out a clean-sweep mission so that the people involved in the supply of drugs be caught and held accountable for all the lives they have ruined.
In addition, the government should fund and open new institutions for treatment of drug addicts. Currently, treatment is provided in only three public hospitals of Pakistan. Last but not the least, mass awareness campaigns through the help of media need to be conducted. In many instances, media has been accused of irresponsibly portraying drugs as the hallmark of urban culture while drug use is revered as “cool” and “classy”.
Parents should also monitor the activities of their children if they want to save them from running head on into self destruction. Responsibility also falls on the shoulders of the youth of Pakistan, as they are the agents that carry out this gruesome act of self-destruction. The youth needs to realise the dark side of drugs and how they can affect them on an individual and social level.
Drugs not only ruin the life of the abuser, but also have an adverse effect on the entire society. They are a social evil that has corrupted the society for long. The future of Pakistan is its brand new target. Drug abuse is a problem too serious to be ignored. It is upon us and the government to deal with this issue immediately with serious effective measures, otherwise the very future of a large chunk of today’s youth will be severely compromised.