It’s not just sex and rock ’n roll that the city’s school going youngsters are experimenting with; experts say kids as young as 13 and 14 are indulging in substance abuse. Whether it’s the exam stress or coping with peer pressure, the age of experimentation and addiction has reduced alarmingly.
Counsellors confirm the rise in the number of cases where class 12 students, previously restricted to smoking cigarettes, are trying herbal drugs to bust stress and enhance their performance. “The number of students smoking marijuana to beat stress has gone up considerably in the past few years. Students with an experimental zeal are more prone to intoxicants like weed and hash,” says Rahul Chandok, consultant psychologist, Batra Hospital.
Adds CBSE counsellor Geetanjali Kumar, “More often than not, their parents are clueless about their dependence on such substances. Many are duped by peers and introduced to certain medicines that help reduce sleep. This becomes the prime reason for them to sample weed and hash too.”
In an effort to understand the problem and arrest it at its source, the UN has introduced a school-based program called Project G86. Bidisha Pillai, the officer-in-charge, explains that while anecdotal evidence shows students as young as 13 to 14 being initiated into abuse, there are no statistics to understand the scale yet.
Project G86 has 200 public and government schools on board, and has started a campaign called ‘I Decide — I will not take drugs’. This program reaches out to kids in classes six and seven. Children are encouraged to have activities around the theme of drugs to increase awareness about why they are unhealthy, their side effects and so on. Brochures are also handed out to parents on the importance of talking to children about drug abuse.
Programs are not enough, however, and everyone agrees that it’s the parents who must take the lead in stamping out drug abuse among their children. Deepak Raheja, who spearheads Hope Foundation that works actively with patients suffering from drug abuse, states he comes across at least seven to 10 similar cases in a week. He reminds parents that “abuse can lead to various behavioural changes in children. They need to rekindle essential values that can save children from deadly consequences.”