The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The figures keep increasing

Every year the numbers are increasing. In 2003, there were 48,000 patients, while in 2005, there were about 56,000 and we are yet to calculate the figures for 2006, which may be even more,” says S. Haque Nizamie, director, Central Institute of Psychiatry (CIP).

These are figures of those who turn up for treatment for substance abuse. “The age group is mostly between 20-25 years, which also includes college girls,” he says. The numbers include those who turn up from other states as well, of which the maximum numbers are from UP and Bihar. The commonly reported addictions are for opium, brown sugar, heroin, and alcohol, he says.

Yes, addiction is still very much a problem among the youth, even if it is now not as much talked about as in the 70s, which is when it kicked off as a style statement, or popular serials made, like Campus and Subhah, in the 80s, by when it was less about style and more about a habit.

And is still so, though the names of the drugs inhaled have changed over the years. Fancier and deadlier stuff now sneaks in and out of parties and even youth gatherings.

What has not changed is that it still kills. Going by the figures, lessons have obviously not been learnt. The recent death of a student of BIT Mesra, who died of an overdose of iodex in bread, is just a case in point.

Campuses may ban any form of drugs inside, like they strictly do at St Xavier’s College, Ranchi, but students still find a way of getting them.

It is strictly prohibited inside, said Ritesh Kumar (name changed), a student of the college, but once outside, Corex (diluted liquid) and brown sugar are commonly available and indulged in.

“Similarly, nitration tablets are also a craze among the students, and very commonly taken during examinations. It gives them a high, they say. Students also use other such drugs,” Kumar said.

Mukesh Singh (name changed), doing his MBA from BIT Mesra, explained how easy it actually is. There are small dhabas outside the institute where students do indulge in taking different types of drugs.

“Smoking and alcohol are quite common. But then there are lot of students who purchase drugs from city medicine shops,” he said. And as one of them points out, that though such cases do not make it to the headlines as they did earlier, it doesn’t mean that the terror has gone away.

But ask the police and authorities and they do not usually have too many figures to quote. At least not in Jamshedpur. That’s because not too many students attend colleges at all, is the joke!

NGOs feel that it’s just as well that these cases remain within close confines. “Once police get involved, various other complications begin, which makes it difficult for us to rehabilitate the users,” said Anand Sahu, general secretary of Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Jamshedpur.

But general opinion in the city is that though the trend did see an upsurge in the late 80s, with time it has died down to a large extent.

If that’s so, one wonders who is buying all the charas, modak (bhang balls) and marijuana that’s easily available in the city markets.

“We know that students take such items, but the percentage of such students is not too high, therefore most of them remain under cover,” said Anirban of Jamshedpur Cooperative College.

“It’s not that grave a problem. At least in colleges around Jamshedpur. Hardly one to two per cent of students are involved, which is quite low,” pointed out Deroze Ibrahimi, professor of psychology at Karim City College.

But as in Ranchi, here, too, access to these addictive drugs is not difficult.

“Most colleges have ghettos close to the campus, where such dealings take place in broad daylight. To an extent colleges in Ranchi have more such cases than their steel city counterparts,” says Sumita Bansal, who has completed her studies from Ranchi.

Students who preferred staying anonymous claimed that getting what you want through agents or local pan shops was no big deal.

But even those in Jamshedpur who insist that substance abuse is not really a problem, admit that alcoholism is.

And is serious enough to give sleepless nights to many parents and guardians.

“On several occasions we have seen students drunk in colleges, but other than that no such activities are visible on the campus,” says Anirban.

According to a survey conducted by the city chapter of YMCA and funded by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), over 500 injected drug users were identified in the city, but not many of them were college students.

“Students are mostly into alcohol, but not much into drug usage. Moreover, during our survey, the percentage of substance users among college going students was very low,” said Anand Sahu.

But the picture doesn’t seem to be that rosy everywhere. Nizamie said they have a special clinic for substance abuse and alcohol once a week, every Saturday.

“Our clinic is full every week,” he said. As part of their treatment, they take the patients through a detoxifying programme, and charge Rs 10 per day. In-patients are also given a healthy diet, vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

Their helpline service, he points out is open to anyone who wants help.

Anyone wanting help, can access them at 0651-2450822, 2232618, 2231848.

A student who has been through a rehabilitation programme said: “Help should always be taken. Once you get addicted to such things, it’s really terrible, and you are absolutely finished by it. ”

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