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Rise of substance abuse amongst kids!

~ Dr Anand Mishra, Internal Medicine Specialist, Hiranandani Hospital Vashi- A Fortis Network Hospital ~

Children now-a-days are more vulnerable than ever; exposure to the world through social media, has set a new tone in society. What is affecting most of the youth today, is drug use and abuse. There has been an alarming rise in the consumption of substances amongst the young and the number continues to rise; however, most do not seek medical advice or treatment. Youth between the age group of 16-22yrs indulge in banned substances with a steady growth rate of about 10%. National Crime Records Bureau’s(NCRB) city-wise data reported that in 2014, there were 19,874 cases under Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act reported in the country; of this, Mumbai reported 14,274 cases – putting Mumbai right on top.

Survey conducted by the Health and Family Welfare Ministry of India, amongst boys aged between 15-19yrs showed that a shocking 28.6% reported tobacco use and 15% were addicted to alcohol. Girls aged 15-19 showed 5.5% used tobacco while 4% were addicted to alcohol. Nobel Peace Prize winner and child welfare crusader, Kailash Satyarthi brought the issue of substance issue before the Supreme Court and sought an order from the government to draft a national action plan to eliminate drug abuse by children.

Lack of social bonding, feeling of isolation and failure of support system are the immediate predisposing factors. Collegians with busy or estranged parents, are a highly vulnerable group, along with teens who have borderline personality disorders. Those kids with a stressful life, biological vulnerability, genetic predisposition and mental illness can also be sighted as a high risk group. Substances commonly abused are Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis, Amphetamines group of drugs, Heroin, inhalants and injectable substances. Many also resort to Cocaine, Opium and LSD. Many are compelled to ‘try’ out these drugs due to peer influences. Survey by a set of Psychiatrists found that most teenagers in Mumbai, are just a friend away from substance abuse. The respondents said that peer-pressure and stress were the main reason behind starting substance use followed by curiosity and depression. Addiction starts out as social conformity, gradually progressing into full-blown substance abuse. Easy availability, lack of proper inhibition, lack of law enforcement and economic accessibility, are also of concern which can increase the chances of a youngster indulging in these substances.

A recluse who presents with unusual quietness or agitated behavior, spends long hours by himself with minimal or no social interaction, may be easily susceptible. Substance abuse if often noted in individuals with influences of peer pressure, sibling rivalry or childhood abuse; these can be predisposing issues. Rave parties and get-together’s where exposure to substances is uninhibited, could be the triggering point; what starts as an experiment might end-up in addiction and abuse. Later stages of addiction, where the individual has been on substances for a long duration are often noted in clinical cases. These individuals usually require admission and full de-addiction therapy along with medication to control the withdrawal symptoms, coupled with psychological analysis and therapy.

Teenagers today need to be guided well in order to refrain from such activities. Parental support is essential and a child must not be neglected. On suspicion of such activities of behavior, immediate medical help should be sought and social support should be strengthened to help the child.

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