Many youngsters from Mumbai’s upwardly mobile class may be experimenting with drugs but they do not have a clear idea about their harmful effects.
Many of them, for instance, believe that cannabis or ganja is a safe drug.
This is what a study conducted by KEM Hospital’s psychiatry department found. The researchers interviewed about 100 youngsters whom the police booked after a party at a club in Juhu almost exactly a year ago.
“They had no idea that the repeated use of cannabis and other substances can cause neuro-chemical changes in the brain, leading to psychosis,” said Dr Shubhangi Parkar, the department head, adding that such half-baked information was dangerous.
Based on the findings, the psychiatry department plans to hold workshops in city colleges to create awareness about drug abuse.
The researchers found that majority of the youngsters were between 19 and 24 years old, educated and belonged to elite, nuclear families.
“They are not poor performers or failures. They are smart boys and girls, doing well in their studies and careers. All of them had goals that they were working towards,” said Dr Parkar.
The fact that 90 per cent of them belong to nuclear families could explain why most of their parents did not know they were going to a rave party, she said. “This shows that there is not enough communication between parents and children,” she said.
The researchers pointed out that “getting caught” had shaken up the youngsters: 80 per cent admitted they were “ashamed” of putting their family through the ordeal.
“Some of them then took up Vipaasana meditation, two of them got back to playing tennis and others joined yoga,” said Dr Parkar.
These youngsters were no strangers to drugs and other addictive substances.
Over 85 per cent of them admitted to have consumed alcohol on several occasions; half were addicted to nicotine/tobacco; and a majority had experimented with drugs and psychotropic substances.
“Only five to six of them said they had used cannabis or amphetamine for the first time at the rave,” said Dr Manas Sule, who helped conduct the study.
Yet 34 per cent of those interviewed said they did not know that drugs were harmful. The 66 per cent who claimed to know that drug use had a negative impact did not know what the specific harmful effects were.
While talking to the youngsters, the researchers discovered that most of them wrongly perceived cannabis to be a harmless, non-addictive substance though in reality it can cause dependence, heart disease, paranoia and psychosis.
Psychiatrist Dr Anjali Chhabria, who was not involved in the study, said this is what she had noted in her practice too.
“Youngsters feel that cannabis is not a drug,” she said, “There is a lot of literature on the Net about the benefits of cannabis. It is being promoted as a ‘green substance’ and something that creative people have.”
At the same time, all the youngsters interviewed claimed to be seeking a high in music and a “unique experience”, not drugs. Half of them claimed they were not even aware that drugs would be available at the party.
Apart from their love for techno music, the reasons for going to the rave included celebration of a friend’s birthday / new job, escape from a monotonous, tough life and search for a thrill.
“One boy told me that he was so tired of studying for exams and working hard that he just wanted to chill out,” said Dr Parkar.