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Addiction: The other side of ‘fun’

Experimentation has its side-effects: One glass of beer may not be addictive. It can lead to a chain of disruptive behaviour, writes Jaya Shroff.
Hindustan Times | By Jaya Shroff
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2008 09:41 PM IST

Most teenagers will tell you gulping down an occasional glass of beer along with a cigarette at a bar is fun, not substance abuse. That’s where they are wrong. One glass of beer may not be addictive, but can lead to a chain of behaviour that can leave you a physical and mental wreck. It can become a habit.

“Watch any music video or a movie for teens and you’ll find that a swig of beer is equated with liveliness and trendy behaviour,” says Dr Bhawna Burmi, senior clinical psychologist and and educational counsellor at Escorts Heart and Research Institute.

Instead of cautioning teenagers about the destructive effects of substance abuse, most adults dismiss it as rebellious behaviour. “Sure, Shah Rukh Khan has a right to smoke during a cricket match just as Akshay Kumar can promote soda for alcohol companies to get around the ban on alcohol advertising, but adults should realise that teens would do anything to be like their idols,” says Burmi.

Risk-taking behaviour is anyway more common in teens because of the hormonal changes happening in their body that makes them crave for an adrenalin rush.

“That’s when they are attracted to the opposite sex and want to impress them by smoking and drinking,” says Dr Vohra. While most Delhi school principals disagree that their students smoke, psychologists say that in a lot of cases it starts as early as school. “It is not uncommon to see young school children puffing outside the schools,” says Amita Pandhya, whose daughter Devika studies at a South Delhi school.

“Easy accessibility to alcohol, cigarettes and sexual images along with access to more money and reduced parenting supervision are all add to the risk factors,” says Dr Vohra.

In some cases, the pressure to do well in academics also leads to addictions. The only way out is communicating with teenagers to ensure they learn how to stop or slow down before their world comes crashing down around them.

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