By Dr G Shreekumar Menon
Mangaluru, Feb 1, 2021: Drugs and substance abuse are major challenges facing this country and needs urgent mitigating measures. Drug abuse by youth has implications on the political, economic, security and social stability arenas. Drug abuse is reckoned to be a silent killer of any nation. Many nations are struggling with the myriad problems caused by youth drug abuse. Evident lack of awareness, fanned by unavailability of accurate information on the adverse consequences of abusing drugs has led to proliferation of drug use by all communities.Gradually it is slipping into becoming a life-style habit, hence to be tolerated and accepted. The most commonly abused drugs include Ganja, Charas, Hashish, ecstasy pills, ecstasy powder, MDMA, and LSD stamps. These drugs are available in the market under various brand names but their safety is not certified by any authority. Hence the market abounds with spurious and fake products of unknown origin and quality, sold by dubious hawkers and vendors.Students are the constant target of drug peddlers. Consumption of these drugs by students can cause irreparable damage to their physical and mental health.To guide pragmatic interventions in the fight against alcohol and drugs abuse among students, parental responsibilityif exercised judiciously can help students mitigate alcohol and drug abuse.
The country has experienced an information technology explosion in recent years, a development that has had both positive and negative effect on youth. Alluring narratives of enjoyment from consumption of alcohol and drugs are explicit on the internet, and on social media, young minds get easily swayedby such reading material and desire to experience such thrills. As a result, present day students are getting introduced to all kinds of drugs at a tender age. As the habit gains root in them, a big dent occurs in their lives. This includes collapsed families, role confusion, andparents who ignore their responsibility as role models for their children.Resultantly, we see some in the student community refusing to be obedient, throwing tantrums very often, being disrespectful of themselves and those around them, indulging in lawlessness and often exhibiting violent tendencies. There is a culture of disrespect permeating across certain categories of students, which is causing irreparable damage to the social fabric.
Youth are among the most vulnerable in our population, vulnerable because they are at a much higher risk for developing a substance use disorder later in life and because other adverse consequences are likely to affect them more significantly.
Parenting today’s generation has become hopelessly complicated that many parents simply give-up, eventually leading to adoption of wayward lifestyles including drug abuse by misguided students. Those students who feel rejected then join deviant peer networks thereby increasing the risk of drinking and other forms of drug and substance abuse.
Parents are the strongest influence that students have.They notice how parents use alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs at home, in their social life, and in other relationships. This includes how parents deal with strong feelings, emotions, stress, and even minor aches and pains.Parents face a variety of challenges in helping prevent alcohol and drug abuse among their children, including uncooperative neighbours, lack of services, lack of guiding and counselling services, easy availability of substances of abuse and lack of time to be actively involved in their children’s lives. Parental helplessness becomes evident when parents begin to cede control to their children.
Many factors are associated with conferring a risk for drug use among youth, including biological (genetic, psychiatric disorders), environmental (e.g., high or low socioeconomic status), or psychological (e.g., low self-esteem, aggressive behaviour, poor self-control). Initiation of substance use in early adolescence is predictive of many negative outcomes in adulthood, compromising work, family roles, educational achievement, and ongoing drug involvement.
Among other risk factors for using drugs that parents should be aware of are a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), personality disorders (e.g., oppositional defiant disorder), having first degree relatives (e.g., parents) with an alcohol or drug use disorder or using alcohol or drugs at home, poor grades at school, drug-using friends, and availability of drugs in nearby areas. Countering these risk factors are protective factors, among which are religious involvement and beliefs, engagement in extracurricular activities, exposure to substance use prevention messages and programs, strong parental disapproval of youth substance use, and parental monitoring and guidance.
Supportive parenting and monitoring of children’s behaviour (parental involvement) is a critical factor associated with lower rates of drug use among youth. Parental monitoring and supervision of friendships are critical for drug abuse prevention: rule-setting for activities, monitoring friends and social engagements, limiting social networking, praise for appropriate behaviour, and moderate, consistent discipline that enforces defined family rules all reduce children’s risks and protect against pathology and substance abuse.
Friends and peer groups are important and consistently strong predictors of drug use. Adolescents whose friends use drugs are more likely to use themselves, and friends often provide the drugs. Friends also are role models for drug using behaviours, they help to shape beliefs and positive attributes to drugs and normalize drug use. Friend’s use of drugs predicts frequency of use and problematic outcomes. Early intervention with risk factors often has a greater impact than later intervention to change a student’s life path away from problems and influential peers, and toward positive behaviours.
Many factors at home can influence a child’s attitudes and propensity to use drugs. Among the risk factors in the home environment are psychological, physical, or sexual abuse, living with parents who abuse alcohol and other drugs, witnessing fights at home, parental neglect, parental depression or psychopathology, providing mixed messages about drugs, especially if parents use, and permission for unlimited access to social networking. Each of these factors can be modified and improvements in the home environment can assist the youth in avoiding drug use.
There are many signs that can alert parents to a youth’s drug use. If a parent observes the youngster neglecting school work, their grades are declining, they are losing interest in extracurricular activities, they have changed friends, social groups, clothing, behaviour, the youth is at risk and it becomes important to find out the reasons. Sleep patterns can also change and are manifest by irregular, unusually short, or prolonged sleep. Worrisome health issues emerge and personal hygiene declines in some youthful drug users. Relationships with family members deteriorate, and a change in personality emerges. For example, a youth can become less open, more secretive, locks his or her bedroom doors, and become less honest about his or her whereabouts or use of money or may even steal money. In the case of marijuana/ Ganja consumption, tell-tale signs include red, bloodshot eyes; euphoria; unwarranted laughter; an increase in appetite, especially for sweets; difficulty paying attention or solving problems; memory loss; increased socializing; reduced inhibitions and poor judgment; dizziness; drowsiness; sedation; slow movement; and/or loss of ambition and motivation. Heavy consumption of high potency marijuana can result in hallucinations, paranoia, panic attacks, or delusions. If a person becomes addicted to marijuana or any drug, there will be persistent personality and behaviour changes that can’t be related to other influences in life. Life goals and favourite activities may be dropped. The drug user may become withdrawn and secretive and will become depressed.
At any stage along the spectrum of drug use, it is important to intervene and seek professional help. The earlier help is sought, before a substance use disorder emerges, the higher the probability the youth can reverse course and become normal. Effective parenting and early intervention may prevent a lifetime of unhappiness, derailed goals, unfulfilled dreams and compromised health. It has been wisely observed “There is no leadership more important than parenthood.”
Dr. G. Shreekumar Menon IRS (Rtd) Ph.D: Former Director General of National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics & Multi-Disciplinary School Of Economic Intelligence India; Fellow, James Martin Centre For Non Proliferation Studies, USA; Fellow, Centre for International Trade & Security, University of Georgia, USA; Public Administration, Maxwell School of Public Administration, Syracuse University, U.S.A.; AOTS Scholar, Japan. He can be contacted at email@example.com