Growing drug addiction & substance abuse | By Shah Fahad


Growing drug addiction & substance abuse

DRIVING through the roads of Karachi, you can see drug addicts sitting in the corners, injecting themselves with drugs and some lying unconscious.

Sights like these are very common but they always make me question if we are even interested in investing in our future.

For us, investing in real estate seems more lucrative than saving a 15-year-old boy dying from substance abuse. Their deaths do not even make it to the press because they do not really matter to anyone.

We are completely oblivious that those drug addicts are actually our future and it was our responsibility to save them. Our repugnant attitude isolates them from society.

In most cases, the families of these drug addicts disavow them or they run away and in some cases, they don’t have any family.

Although I6 June is the International Day against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking but in our country only a few understand the gravity of the situation.

According to the UN report, Pakistan has more than 7.6 million addicts and every year 90,000 more youngsters add to the list.

Drug addiction and substance abuse are more common where individuals can afford the drugs.

Now it’s a story of every other family. Drug use is considered as a “new cool” in the upper class of society, people openly use drugs in public gatherings and they are being distributed in educational institutions like candies. It has become so casual that teachers and students do drugs together without any hesitation.

The closed-door environment in our homes is providing breeding grounds for youngsters to smoke hash, coke and weed. For some, there is no concept of exams without doing drugs the night before.

In a way, our negligence provides breathing space for these activities. The journey always starts with low-category drugs like chalia, paan, gutka, and cigarettes.

The government imposed a ban on such commonly used low category drugs but everyone knows the spot to buy them.

The story is no different for other drugs, people know who to ask for and where to get it, but it seems like only the law enforcement agencies are unaware of them.

Mr. Abdul Rehman Allana, who runs a drug rehab in Karachi by the name of AAS Trust, had heart-wrecking stories to share about the patients.

One of them was about a 6-year-old child whose brother was an addict and he used to sell him for sex to pay for his addiction.

The child eventually ran away from home but he knew only one way to survive, to sell himself and became an addict.

He was 9 years old when he reached the rehabilitation center. There were many more like him, their stories ran shivers down my spine.

Can we blame that 9-year-old child for doing drugs or selling himself for money? Society as a whole and even his brother exploited him and dragged him into a life worse than that of animals.

There are thousands of kids like him in the streets, either they become the target of our disgust or sexual greed.

Instead of sending them to school, society taught them how to do drugs and where to get them.

To my surprise, donors usually avoid funding private drug rehab centers because they believe that these addicts will eventually relapse and their money would waste.

Drug addiction and substance abuse is an illness like any other and the patients require medical treatment to come out of the addiction. These patients are treated using medications, isolation, and psychiatric treatment.

A normal person cannot imagine the physical agony these patients go through and the traumatic lives of those addicts who are often seen roadside injecting themselves with poison. It’s a treacherous path to recovery but it’s even more difficult to avoid relapse.

One of the major reasons for relapse is that once the patient comes out, they find themselves in the company of the same people who dragged them into this in the first place.

People slur abuse at these patients and think that once an addict will always remain an addict. Such behaviour creates the feeling of rejection in these people and acts as a catalyst for relapse.

J.F. Clarke said “a politician thinks of the next election; a statesman, of the next generation”.

In our case, politicians don’t even have to think about the next election, let alone the next generation.

We are responsible for the increasing number of drug addicts because we reject them, we feel disgusted by them, we let them die on footpaths.

We are so lost in our false sense of self-righteousness that we think these people don’t deserve our charity and attention.

I haven’t seen one awareness drive against drugs and substance abuse, people still believe that drug addicts do drugs for self-pleasure while in reality, they have zero self-esteem and they prefer to die instead of living the life they are living.

It seems like cricket leagues are more important than investing in our future and we are happy to live in our utopias.

—The writer is a senior columnist and regularly contributes to the national press.

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