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Drug abuse by kids high in NE

- Heroin, tobacco, injectable drugs highest in Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram
File picture of street children getting ready to sniff glue

Guwahati, Jan. 2: A national study on drug abuse among children has found Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram having the highest percentage of heroin, inhalants and injectable drug users respectively.

The study, conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, New Delhi, in 27 states and two Union territories, found that 88.6 per cent children drug users interviewed in Mizoram used injectable drugs while 68.3 per cent children inhalant users were from Tripura.

Meghalaya had the highest proportion of heroin users (27.3 per cent) followed by Punjab (19.3 per cent), Jharkhand (16 per cent), Jammu and Kashmir (13.3 per cent) and Odisha (11.7 per cent).

Besides Mizoram, a substantial proportion of injectable drug users were found in Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Punjab, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.

The first comprehensive study on drug abuse among children in India found no use of heroin or injectable substances by children in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Bihar.

The highest percentage of tobacco use among children (96.4 per cent) was found in Meghalaya followed by Nagaland (95.8 per cent), Sikkim (93.1 per cent) and Uttaranchal (90.0 per cent). It was lowest in Goa (36.7 per cent) and Delhi (69.7 per cent).

Alcohol use among children was reported highest in Karnataka (88.9 per cent) followed by Andhra Pradesh (84.7 per cent), Chandigarh and Haryana (80 per cent). Delhi (23.1 per cent) and Tripura (35 per cent) reported lowest percentage of alcohol use.

Cannabis use was found highest (70 per cent) in Uttaranchal followed by Haryana (63.3 per cent) and Meghalaya (50.9 per cent).

A working group on substance abuse and drug addiction among children, constituted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the country’s apex child rights organisation, commissioned the study, Assessment of Pattern and Profile of Substance Use among Children in India.

“The use of tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and inhalants was present in almost all the 27 states and two Union Territories where the study was conducted. The use of heroin/smack and pharmaceutical opioids in children was also present in the majority of the states/Union Territories. Substance use in children was not limited to the metros but was also seen in smaller towns,” the study states.

Availability of substances in and around home or school, academic failures, parental attitudes favourable to substance use and peer substance use were identified as some of the reasons that encouraged drug abuse among children.

“Drug abuse among children is really disturbing. We came across many child drug users in Assam too,” said Dipesh Bhagawati, a doctor with the psychiatry department of Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.

Contrary to popular belief, the study found that the addicts were not just street children. One-third of juvenile substance abusers live in homes and attend schools.

The study recommended that all state governments should be sensitised about drug abuse among children and they should initiate preventive measures and treatment. It said there should be specialised treatment centres for children into substance use.

Innocence snuffed out

What: Study of 4024 children

Where: In 135 cities and towns in 29 states and Union territories

Substances of abuse: Tobacco and alcohol followed by cannabis and inhalants

Average age: 14.3 years

Cause: Craving, peer pressure, easy availability, stress

Result: Hinders development; psychological and health disorders