1 Kagar

Essay On Drugs And Youth In Malayalam

Drugs addiction and the youth

Dated: 20 June 2010

This Article was published in
The Frontier Post (Jun 20, 2010)
Daily The Post (Jun 20, 2010)

By Sahibzada Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri

Drugs addiction is harmful not only for the addicted but also has negative impact on the fabric of the society. The effects of such an addiction can cause dangerous changes in the mind, body and spirit of the drug addict. The most disturbing aspect of drug addiction is that it is reaching epidemic proportions in the whole world. People in our part of the world are increasingly becoming addicted to all kinds of drugs including street drugs and prescription drugs etc.

Street drugs include cocaine, heroin and crack, marijuana and meth, while prescription drugs include those such as Valium, OxyContin, Percocet and Ritalin etc. The price of drugs can be very heavy. Simple ill-effects of such addiction include physical itchiness, coma and even premature death. On the other hand, the psychological ill effects can make a person completely dependent on taking drugs in order to survive.

Drugs addiction is a very serious problem and even if the addict is using prescribed drugs, the ill effects can be very harmful indeed. It is, therefore, important that the government takes administrative, legal and policy measures that put an end to the menace of drug addiction. The right kind of information can help the addict avoid overdosing and it can also prevent medical-related complications.

The ill effects of addiction to drugs can be very difficult to endure, which is why the addict must be treated for their condition at the earliest. A lot of research is being done on how addiction to drugs harms people and societies. An individual that takes drugs will expect certain changes to take place in his being.

In the US, addiction to drugs is quite widespread. One study on this problem revealed that one in every five American aged between sixteen and fifty nine had used at least one drug. What’s more is that about half (46 percent) of Americans, aged between 16 and 21, admitted having used drugs in different phases of their life. Even more worrying is the fact that approximately twenty million people, aged above twelve years, have used illegal drugs in the US. In fact, about 1.47 percent of Americans are addicted to drugs.

North America, which includes US and Canada and even Mexico, has a major drugs addiction problem. The problem is no less dangerous in Central America where countries such as Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua are major centres for drug abuse.

Drugs addiction in Pakistan is no less worrisome. Though its neighbours (India, Bangladesh and Maldives as well as Nepal) all have drugs addiction issues, Pakistan is the worst affected throughout South Asia. It is, after all, home to the largest market for heroin consumption. What’s more, Pakistan is also a major exporter of heroin and, in fact, approximately fifty tons of opium is illegally brought into Pakistan to produce heroin.

Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and even Sri Lanka all have major issues with use of drugs. Afghanistan, for example, has about 28,513,677 drug addicts, while Bangladesh has 141, 340, 476 addicts. India has a staggering 1,065, 070,607 drug users, while Pakistan has 159, 196, 336 addicts.

The worst thing about being addicted to drugs is that it is affecting the youth in every part of the world in a major way. The trouble starts among the school-going children but the problem is exacerbated with abetment by those who wish to earn money out of selling drugs.

The problem among children and youth arises because of a perception that they seem to harbour the notion of their inadequacy for failing to measure up to their expectations of their elders. Nowadays it has become fashionable for the actors and singers to include tales of drugs addiction and sexual references in their music. So instead of inculcating good values in the youth, the entertainment industry is responsible for propagating the use of drugs, which is further fuelling the addiction to drugs in both the developed and developing world.

The youth has become the target of major drug peddlers. These peddlers sell drugs and package them as symbols of revolution and freshness but have no regard for the consequences of their actions. The youth that takes to drugs are more likely to commit suicide because of the harmful effects of the drugs they are taking. Misinformation about drugs is another reason for these deaths as the addict or user may take the drugs in wrong doses, which can then lead to a fatality.

Drugs addiction among the youth is killing them morally and socially as well as psychologically and even physically. And, drug barons are becoming increasingly wealthier by supplying these drugs that are causing untold misery.

It is time that societies and governments took a firmer view about preventing and stopping drugs addiction. There should be a community plan that should be implemented to stop addiction to drugs. This plan must identify the specific drugs that youth are using. It should build on existing resources such as existing drug abuse prevention programmes and it should also develop short-term goals relevant to proper implementation of research- based drug abuse prevention programmes.

In addition, the community plan must project its long- term objectives to ensure that resources are made available and in addition, the community plan must also incorporate ongoing assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of their preventive measures and strategies.

In fact, all preventive measures need to address different forms of drug abuse and addiction and should also target different types of drug abuse and addictions. It should also be tailored to address risks that are specific to certain populations or audience characteristics. It must be aimed at specific populations and at major transition points such as at middle-school level.

Unless serious measures are taken now, the very future of a large chunk of today’s youth will be severely compromised. The problem of drug addiction is too real and serious to be ignored. The governments need to involve communities and media in highlighting the perils associated with the drug addiction. Media has a responsibility to highlight such issues with a view to educating people and building a consensus among them to forge a united stand against such scourges.

The perpetrators of doom and gloom are well entrenched in the power structures and have formed transnational partnerships for their nefarious purposes. The response to deal with such an organized menace should also be concerted for effective output. It calls for sustained engagement and coordinated action among countries. Individual efforts cannot produce desired results. For how long shall we turn a blind eye to such critical issues? It is now time to be responsible in our actions.

The writer is Australia-based PhD scholar

The abuse of alcohol and illicit and prescription drugs continues to be a major health problem internationally. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that approximately 5 per cent of the world's population used an illicit drug in 2010 and 27 million people, or 0.6 per cent of the worlds adult population, can be classified as problem drug users. It is estimated that alcohol abuse results in 2.5 million deaths per year and that heroin, cocaine and other drugs are responsible for 0.1 to 0.2 million deaths per year. In addition to causing death, substance abuse is also responsible for significant morbidity and the treatment of drug addiction creates a tremendous burden on society. UNODC estimates that worldwide costs related to treating drug abuse total $200-$250 billion, or 0.3-0.4 per cent of global GDP; additionally, it is estimated that only 20 per cent of drug users received treatment for their dependence in 20101.

Existing studies have found a high correlation between adolescent abuse and becoming a problem drug user in adulthood2; therefore, it can be inferred that many problem drug users start abusing drugs at an early age. Additionally, accidental and intentional fatalities that are associated with drug and alcohol use represent one of the leading preventable causes of death for the 15 to 24-year-old population. Alcohol and other drug use in the adolescent population carries a high risk for school underachievement, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, and depression2.

Preventative science postulates that negative health outcomes, including those resulting from substance abuse, can be prevented by reducing risk factors and enhancing protective factors3. The general framework used in this article is based on research presented by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and emphasizes the strategy of targeting modifiable risk factors and enhancing protective factors through family, school and community prevention programmes.

Identify risk factors

Prevention of substance abuse among adolescents requires awareness of characteristics that place youth at risk and targeting risk factors that are modifiable. Many studies have attempted to identify risk factors associated with adolescent drug and alcohol usage.

In its 2010 report titled “Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents”, NIDA lists several factors that can enhance or mitigate adolescent risk for initiating or continuing to abuse drugs. These factors include exposure to drugs, socio-economic status, quality of parenting, peer group influence and biological/inherent predisposition towards drug addiction4. A retrospective study by Dube et al5 measured correlations between the number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and future substance abuse behaviour. Adverse childhood events included abuse (physical, emotional or sexual), neglect (physical or emotional); growing up with household substance abuse, criminality of household members, mental illness among household members, and parental discord and illicit drug use. The study specifically compared the number of ACEs resulting in a greater likelihood of drug use initiation under 14 yr of age and also compared the number of ACEs associated with increased risk of developing addiction. The study demonstrated that each additional ACE increased the likelihood for drug use under 14 yr of age by two to fourfold and raised the risk of later addiction by five times. People with five or more ACEs were seven to ten times more likely to report illicit drug use than those with none5.

Hawkins et al3 also reviewed many studies that attempted to identify risk factors for adolescent drug abuse. They discussed specific risk factors occurring at the societal/community level and at the individual level. Of the societal risk factors, the following were identified: laws and norms favourable toward behaviour (including lower minimum drinking ages) and availability. Interestingly, socio-economic status did not seem to correlate with increased risk of drug abuse among adolescents; it was only in cases of extreme poverty in conjunction with childhood behavioural problems where increased risk was observed. The personal characteristics that positively correlated with drug and alcohol abuse are numerous and include low harm avoidance, poor impulse control, parents with a history of alcoholism and drug abuse, high levels of family conflict, lack of and/or inconsistent parental discipline, a history of academic failure and a history of antisocial and aggressive behaviour3.

Being aware of these risk factors can assist families, health professionals, schools and other community workers with identifying at risk youth and aid in reducing or eliminating risk factors through prevention and treatment programmes.

Prevention programmes

Botvin et al6 cited several key factors required in prevention programmes to make them effective. These factors include a need to address multiple risk and protective factors, provide developmentally appropriate information relative to the target age group, include material to help young people recognize and resist pressures to engage in drug use, include comprehensive personal and social skills training to build resistance, deliver information through interactive methods and cultural sensitivity that includes relevant language and audiovisual content familiar to the target audience6. Successful prevention programmes should incorporate all of these characteristics and can then be provided through the family, school, community or healthcare community.

The 2010 NIDA Report4 emphasizes both the role of family and community prevention programmes as vital to deterring child and adolescent substance abuse. Their findings are summarized below:

Family prevention programmes: The NIDA Report emphasizes strengthening protective factors through the family, including increasing family bonding and using appropriate discipline. The following family characteristics place children at a higher risk for substance abuse: parent with a history of alcoholism and drug abuse, high levels of family conflict, lack of and/or inconsistent parental discipline. It follows that eliminating these risk factors can reduce the risk of a child/adolescent abusing drugs and alcohol. Once these risk factors are identified, families may benefit from formal prevention programmes that can focus on enhancing family bonding, parenting skills (including communication, rule-setting, appropriate disciplinary actions) and changing parental behaviours that may place a child at risk for later abuse4.

One example of a family prevention/treatment programme is multi-dimensional family therapy (MDFT). This is a comprehensive family-based outpatient or partial hospitalization (day treatment) programme for substance-abusing adolescents and those at high risk for continued substance abuse and other problem behaviours. MDFT focuses on helping youth develop more effective coping and problem-solving skills for better decision-making and helps the family improve interpersonal functioning as a protective factor against substance abuse and related problems. Liddle et al7 compared multi-dimensional family therapy with individual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and found that although both treatments were promising, MDFT was more efficacious in treating substance use problem severity, in addition to creating more long lasting effects than standard CBT.

Community and school prevention programmes: In addition to family programmes, NIDA emphasizes school and community programmes as being beneficial in substance abuse prevention. The Report also suggests introducing programmes at an early-age (pre-school/first grade) to address risk factors for later substance abuse, such as early aggression, poor social skills and academic difficulty.

One of the many examples of school prevention programmes cited in the NIDA Report4 is Reconnecting Youth (RY); a school-based prevention programme for high school students with poor school achievement and a potential for not completing their education. Participants may also show signs of multiple problem behaviours, such as substance abuse, depression, aggression, or suicidal behaviours. Students are screened for eligibility and then invited to participate in the programme. The programme goals are to increase school performance, reduce drug use, and learn skills to manage mood and emotions. RY blends small group work (10-12 students per class) to foster positive peer bonding, with social skills training in a daily, semester-long class. Early experiments have shown that participation in RY improved school performance (20% improvement in grade point averages), decreased school dropout, reduced hard drug use (by 60%), and decreased drug use control problems, such as progression to heavier drug use8,9.

Role of healthcare providers in prevention: It is believed that less than 30 per cent of primary care providers perform any screening for substance abuse and as many as 69 per cent do not offer any type of counselling10. Hallfors et al11 cited the following barriers affecting the screening and prevention services in primary care: lack of tested screening tools, lack of knowledge, skills and confidence, financial disincentives (third party services for covering prescription abuse vary widely); and lack of follow up services and resource limitations.

Efforts from paediatricians and primary care providers to overcome these barriers can assist in identifying substance abusers and eventually lead to their treatment.

Conclusion

The abuse of alcohol and drugs has resulted in significant morbidity and mortality among adolescents worldwide. Many of these youth will lose their lives to drugs and alcohol and a significant number are likely to grow up to become problem drug users. Although, the substance abuse problem is complex and large in magnitude, there is a substantial amount of evidence-based research available to physicians, community leaders and schools to implement interventions that can decrease adolescent substance abuse rates. Because this issue is not peculiar to any one community or culture, we recognize that individual interventions may not be universally effective. Therefore, we emphasize the NIDA strategy of targeting modifiable risk factors and enhancing protective factors through family, school and community prevention programmes, as a generalized framework for healthcare and community activists to use when researching programmes and strategies best suited for their own community.

Footnotes

This editorial is published on the occasion of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking - June 26, 2013.

References

1. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Vienna, Austria: UNDOC; 2010. World Drug Report 2010, United Nations Publication, Sales No.E.10.XI.13.

2. Belcher HM, Shinitzky HE. Substance abuse in children: prediction, protection and prevention. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152:952–60.[PubMed]

3. Hawkins J, Catalano R, Arthur MW. Promoting science-based prevention in communities. Addictive Behav. 2002;27:951–76.[PubMed]

4. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) A research-based guide for parents, educators and community leaders. 2nd ed. Bethesda, Maryland, USA: NIDA; 2010. Preventing drug use among children and adolescents.

5. Dube SR, Felitti VJ, Dong M, Chapman DP, Giles WH, Anda RF. Childhood abuse, neglect and household dysfunction and the risk of illicit drug use: the Adverse Childhood Experience Study. Pediatrics. 2003;111:564–72.[PubMed]

6. Bovin G, Griffin KW. School based programmes to prevent alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2007;19:607–15.[PubMed]

7. Liddle H. Theory development in a family-based therapy for adolescent drug abuse. J Clin Child Psychol. 1999;28:521–32.[PubMed]

8. Thompson E, Horn M, Herting J, Eggert L. Enhancing outcomes in an indicated drug prevention program for high-risk youth. J Drug Educ. 1997;27:19–41.[PubMed]

9. Eggert LL, Thompson EA, Herting JR, Nicholas LJ. Reducing suicide potential among high-risk youth: Tests of a school-based prevention program. Suicide Life Threat Behav. 1995;25:276–96.[PubMed]

10. Klein JD, Slap GB, Elster AB, Cohn SE. Adolescents and access to health care. Bull NY Acad Med. 1993;70:219–35.[PMC free article][PubMed]

11. Holfors D, Van Dorn RA. Strengthening the role of two key institutions in the prevention of adolescent substance abuse. J Adolesc Health. 2002;30:17–28.[PubMed]

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