When Avinash Kelkar walked into psychiatrist Dr Parul Agarwal’s clinic, his only symptom was a deteriorating academic performance.
On probing further, Agarwal found out that Kelkar’s academic performance was being impacted due to a ‘substance abuse’ problem.
He had been inhaling correction fluid, commonly called white ink, which is easily available as it is used to correct printed documents. The ink contains harmful petrochemicals, which when inhaled lead to an instant ‘high’.
While the phenomenon was prevalent among street children several decades ago, it has now become more popular among students from affluent families as well.
Parents are increasingly seeking psychiatric guidance to help their children rehabilitate. In the last two years, psychiatrists across the city have seen a rise in cases of children taking to white ink abuse.
“In the past three months, I’ve had to hospitalise two children every month to help them rehabilitate from their addiction,” said psychiatrist Dr Anjali Chhabria. “Even though the bottles state that they must not be sold to children below 18, no one really pays attention.” Most cases of are from the age group of 14-20 years.
To get a ‘high’, children mix the ink and the thinner/solvent in a polythene bag, which they carry along with them and sniff for a few seconds to get an instant kick.
“It took me into a different world, a world of my own. It helped me move away from things around me,” said Rishabh Sheth (20), who started inhaling correction fluid when he was 16. “I was really curious about the type of high it gave and it’s the cheapest drug you can find.”
Short-term side effects include hallucinations and a loss of appetite but in the long run, these chemicals could have lasting effects on other body parts.
“These are dangerous petrochemicals which could affect the heart, lungs, blood stream. Also, in worst cases, the brain could also get affected,” added Agarwal.
White ink can also be a gateway drug to these youngsters to then move onto using other drugs. “Those who use white ink are more likely to progress to cannabis or even cocaine,” said psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty.
However, doctors believe that with rising awareness, parents can detect the addiction early.
“Parents now pay more attention to their children’s behaviour. Many schools also organise parents meetings with psychiatrists to help them cope with such issues,” said psychiatrist P.C. Shashtri.
(Patients’ names changed on request)