AS the scourge of drugs spreads in Punjab and Haryana, consuming in its fold children even as young as 10 years, it is pertinent to concentrate on nipping the menace in the bud. At the heart of prevention lies awareness of all stakeholders: parents, teachers, governments. Knowledge of symptoms that a child addict exhibits and timely intervention can change the course of a trajectory that otherwise is a sure-shot path to tragedy. That our neighbourhood is infested with rampant drug abuse is no secret. It is manifest in umpteen heartrending forms: a death due to substance abuse in the family; dreadful fights in unfortunate homes with youth who have fallen prey to the intoxication; addicts dropping out of school; stealing taps, iron rods or other saleable items to fund their daily dose — and thus, amplifying the misery with run-ins with the police; scant or non-existent treatment; the list goes on.
But the bigger tragedy is the general populace looking the other way when confronted with this social malaise. A greater participation in the drive to prevent children from getting hooked to psychotropic substances holds the key to stemming the rot. A recent study by two consultants at the State Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (SDDTC) in the PGIMS, Rohtak, has found that young kids of well-to-do families are lured into this terrible trap by drug peddlers and addicts even as drugs are easily available. This finding rings the alarm bell: our children are living in a potentially hazardous environment. Vulnerable to peer pressure, the innocent minds know not that the thrill is short-lived, it will soon turn into a shrill cry.
Along with the state machinery clamping down heavily on the peddlers, parents and teachers must assume the responsibility of detecting the signs of drug addiction early on and wean the child with treatment before s/he becomes hopelessly dependent on the drug. Be sensitive to any change in a kid’s behaviour — a decline in interest in studies and other activities, loss of appetite, irritability etc. At its root could be substance abuse.