New Delhi, April 2 (VOICE) We imagine our parents or elders as soon as they wake up, holding a newspaper in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. At the very least, that’s what the movies depict! Some people start their day with a cup of hot, strong coffee or tea, while others start their day with one of the healthier choices.
The situation appears to be changing nowadays. In the city, drugs are provided, sold, peddled, scored, and consumed by youth as readily as coffee.
Let’s travel back to 1980, when young kids barely knew about drugs and its availability around the city. Sushil (name changed) was then 15 years old when he started taking drugs. He is 59 now.
From being declared a “bad character” by four police stations to craving for one bidi, he has successfully managed to remain clean from 2005, that is, after he started actively participating in a programme of complete abstinence from all drugs.
“I have been to jail and I should have been hanged for the things I have done being an addict,” Sushil said.
He recalled how 18 years back when he started off with his de-addiction journey as a newcomer to the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) programme, he found it so difficult to keep up with it.
“It was as if even one puff of a bidi would suffice my cravings, but why I joined the programme was to control this very craving,” he said.
Though life has been a roller coaster ride for Sushil, it has only become better and smoother after his recovery.
“Even after 18 years, I make sure I attend NA sessions everyday,” he said. Once a menace to society, Sushil now runs a coconut water stall in the Paharganj area.
Where a person would think about and set goals for his future, drug addicts’ whole life and thinking is centred on drugs in one form or another — getting, using and finding ways and means to get more.
Substance abusers “live to use” drugs and “use to live”. Their life is controlled by drugs and they are in the grip of a continuing and progressive illness whose end is always the same: jail, institutions, and death.
Narcotics Anonymous (NA), a non-profit fellowship or society of men and women, has taken people out of substance abuse around the country.
It is a group of recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean and the requirement for its membership is quite a simple one but also the most challenging — the desire to stop using.
“Our programme is a set of principles written so simply that we can follow them in our daily lives. There are no strings attached to NA” said Kailash, a 37-year-old recovering addict.
The most important thing about the members of NA is that they work. They are not affiliated with any other organisation, have no initiation fees or dues, no pledges to sign, no promises to make to anyone.
“We are not connected with any political, religious, or law enforcement groups, and are under no surveillance at any time. Anyone may join us, regardless of age, race, sexual identity, creed, religion, or lack of religion,” Kailash said.
Turning a blind eye to what or how much one used or who his/her connections were, what the individual has done in the past, how much or how little he/she has, the members are only interested in what a fellow addict wants to do about his/her problem and how they can help.
“The newcomer is the most important person at any meeting, because we can only keep what we have by giving it away. We have learned from our group experience that those who keep coming to our meetings regularly stay clean,” Kailash added.
Substance abuse has become common and one can see the cases rising rapidly due to the easy availability of different drugs. Though the most common age group afflicted with substance use is 15 to 35, as young as eight years to as old as 60 can be seen using it.
Young people typically report a higher level of drug use than adults, and in many countries, drug use levels among young people are higher today than in earlier generations.
Moreover, harmful patterns of drug use likely increased during the pandemic. Cocaine production is at a record high, and seizures of amphetamine and methamphetamine have skyrocketed.
Other than easy availability and access, other reasons youngsters are possibly falling for, are “emotional problems in this age group, reduced parental supervision and subjective feelings of alienation with the parental group, being increasingly more vulnerable to peer pressure and a keen drive to be seen as cool or a rebel,” said Paramjeet Singh, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, PSRI Hospital, New Delhi.
A lot of us like to gel and chill with friends and colleagues over a simple ‘chai-sutta’ break. While a few people have control over their nicotine consumption, a few fall prey to even harder drugs slowly.
Smoking weed has become more of a habit like any other everyday thing in college, especially for students in hostels or living alone.
The habit usually begins with ‘one try, one shot’. It starts under peer pressure, angst or frustration, or as self-medication to a negative emotional state or event.
“The usage increases over time and the person is no longer in control of the intake. The person often takes substance despite not wanting to, either out of withdrawal (symptoms when a substance is stopped and the body reacts negatively to these reduced levels) or craving (where the person is unable to control his desire to procure and take the substance),” Singh said while pointing out that despite awareness of the negative consequences to self and others, the person continues with the usage.
These days, there are all kinds of drugs widely used and available to almost anyone on demand in colleges. Young kids have access to acid and pills, though weed remains the most popular among all of them. There are exclusive communities for these “stoners” where they meet often and “chill”. Marijuana has kept up to its name as a recreational drug.
“Once you get into these communities, you will realise that almost everyone uses drugs. I remember this guy from my college hostel who used to go score for us whenever we were running out.
“Imagine one person buying weed for a large group of potheads, that’s an easy 10 years in jail if caught. We probably didn’t realise it then, but I’m sure we wouldn’t have cared either way,” said a 24-year-old who works as a graphic designer.
“LSDs are more of a party drug. You don’t just put one on and then go about your life. It’s for music events, weekends, when we go on trips or parties where we really wanna live in the moment,” another fresher said.
“LSD, meth and Ecstasy were the most popular ones during my years. These were also available quite easily and anyone from the ‘stoner’ communities could hook you up with ‘their guy’, though they’re not that cheap when you compare them to weed,” he said.
Kailash had started off young. With a passion to follow the footsteps of gangsters around the town, his addiction had no end until he came to know about NA.
“I started taking drugs as soon as I completed my college in 2008. I was 22 and all I loved was the high after using it. It got me addicted,” Kailash, who is now a Delhi-based entrepreneur, said.
“Where I stand today is only because I joined NA. The programme’s 12-step tradition has kept me hooked to it now and there is no going back. I am healthy physically and mentally,” he added.
NA’s 12-step tradition is all about unity among the members, the desire to stop using and to carry the message to the addict who still suffers.