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Drug Abuse in Youth: An Unstated Challenge to Pakistan By Kashif Mirza

Byadmin

Oct 1, 2023

The writer is an

economist, anchor,

analyst and the

President of All

 Pakistan Private

Schools’ Federation

president@Pakistan

privateschools.com

According to the UNODC’s 2020 World Drug Report, more than 35 million people suffered from the consequences of drug abuse. The WHO says that more than 8 million people die each year from tobacco use with 1.2 million of these deaths from passive smoking alone. It is a grim reality that drug abuse is on the rise among young people in Pakistan. Fifty thousand new drug users have been added to the list of drug addicts in Pakistan annually. More than 8.1 million people are addicted to drugs in Pakistan, including 78 percent of men and 22 percent of women. The included data and figures show that 55 percent of drug addicts belong to Punjab and 45 percent to other provinces of the country. In fact, the number of drug users worldwide is on the rise with cannabis being the most commonly used drug. Other commonly used drugs include alcohol, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy,  methamphetamine, amphetamine-type stimulus (ATS), opium, poly drug, pharmaceutical cocktails, tranquilizers, and sedatives. Factors contributing towards drug abuse include easy access to drugs at low prices, rapidly changing social norms, existence and presence of drug dens and cartels, unemployment and economic distress, lack of awareness on drug abuse within the family and in educational institutions, mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, grief, low self-esteem, frustration, rejection etc., curiosity and urge to experiment, influence of media portrayals, peer pressure, lack of support by parents, the family and the community. The use of drug addiction is on the rise among students. Most young people usually start with light drugs like CIGARETTE, CHHALIYA, GUTKA, NASWAR, and PAN and then switch to hard drugs like HEROIN, OPIUM, COCAINE, ICE AND SHEESHA, and so on.  One of the most common causes of drug abuse among educated youth is academic pressure, parental expectations, lack of appropriate counseling, and easy access to drugs in educational institutions. To address the problem, the Federal Government has passed various laws including the Control of Narcotics Substance Act, of 1997, and the Drugs Act, of 1976, which proscribes the possession and distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol with penalties for violations provided in the Code of Criminal Procedure up to and including capital punishment. Accordingly, the Federal Government enacted the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance, 2002 (Ordinance No. LXXIV of 2002) to limit smoking at public places of work or use and in public service vehicles, except in designated areas, and to outlaw tobacco storage, sale, or distribution in the vicinity of educational institutions. Individuals and institutions who violate the law may face the penalty set out in sections 11 (a) and (b) of the Ordinance. All institutions and universities have a legal responsibility to implement all relevant national laws and policies and should join hands with all stakeholders including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, NGOs, and others to address the problem of unlawful drug and tobacco abuse.

As per the vision and leadership of Army Chief General Asim Munir, aims to build a Drug-Free Pakistan, the Ministry of Federal Education and Training under the supervision of Mr. Waseem Ajmal Chaudhary Federal Secretary, launched the Roll-out of the Anti-Drug Awareness Campaign, organized by PEIRA and ANF.
Now, there is an urgent need to ensure that HEIs contribute to the reduction of drug abuse and smoking, the policy has been made pursuant to the powers granted to the HEC under the Higher Education Commission Ordinance, 2002, and is binding on all HEIs in the country, whether operating in the public or private sectors. Violations or failures to comply with the HEC’s policies may lead to regulatory action being taken against non-compliant HEIs. Unfortunately, in our educational system based on the number-game and family system, we do not train students to deal with academic stress. The students are exposed to drugs, especially during their teens. Indulging in illegal, immoral, and unethical behavior can also adversely affect general well-being. Parents and teachers should guide children and students to have realistic expectations of parental, social, and academic pressure to avoid the pitfalls of illegal substance use. Educating our students about liquor consequences and intoxication can only hold them back for a short time. As students cross the threshold of university, they experience new frontiers of freedom: freedom from the controlled environment of the school, freedom from parental guidance, and above all, the freedom to move, choose, and participate in intramural social and extracurricular activities according to their own will at the University. However, in addition to the thrill of freedom, students can also feel the stress and pressure of parental expectations to perform well in their studies and to be the best in their chosen field: the social pressures of living alone, without family help and support and coping with contemporary influence. Due to academic pressure, when students have a serious need for time and effort to achieve academic goals, if necessary, they study all night to complete the grade and avoid failure. But instead of choosing healthy activities such as sports or decompression exercises, some students turn to drug use. Students often find that drugs are used as an escape or coping mechanism without being aware of the harmful consequences. Parents have the greatest influence on external pressure for their young adults. Families’ concerns about their siblings’ studies and future goals can adversely affect children’s development and overall development. Pressure on developing minds can affect the nervous system and brain, and young people may be at greater risk of drug abuse. Parental intervention and pressure are thus one of the most significant external triggers of pressure for students’ addictions, but for parents, the door swings in both directions. Through a healthy dialogue, parents can influence their children about tension, and drug hazards. As guardians, parents want their children to be successful and not give in to their demands. The adults’ pressure drips onto the children, When students try to relieve pressure or stress, illegal drugs offer a viable option. In addition, alcohol and drugs are glorified at many college and university events and used as a sign of joy and romance.

To combat drug addiction, educators need to be well-trained in advising students with addiction. Counseling for parents of addicted students should also be arranged. Youth counseling programs on drug use and addiction through electronic media should be launched. We also need to offer additional opportunities, such as exercise programs led by trained health and physical education instructors, individual counseling, and stressing for students to stay in touch with the family at home. In addition, each college should offer orientation weekends to raise awareness among students of the spiritual, physical, psychological, and social consequences of drug abuse. Young graduates typically buy drugs by different means and further distribute them to peers. Contact details for drug traffickers and agents are also widespread in college canteens, are usually out of sight from law enforcement, and are convenient for students. Unfortunately, some elements of law enforcement also collude with the drug mafia. This relationship has greatly facilitated access to deadly drugs for youth. Parents, if they are not too immersed in their careers, can quickly notice and recognize that their children are addicted to some prohibited substance. If parents notice that their children’s body is deeply emaciated with severe anorexia, have difficulty breathing, and show fatigue, severe nervous disturbance, a long absence from home, need for extra money, telling lies to make money, isolation, absence from others, long sleep time, laziness, pale face, trembling face, irregularities in work and study, lack of interest in everyday life, red eyes, blurred speech, circles under the eyes, disregard for personal hygiene, and traces of physical abuse, they should see their child immediately. Efforts should be made to control smoking on the campuses of educational institutions, as this is the gateway to drug abuse. A favorable atmosphere of supportive families and educational institutions is essential for the upbringing of socially, mentally, and physically healthy and well-adapted children and for the prevention of later adolescent problems. The challenges facing many parents are reconciling family and work, making financial commitments with adequate support, and spending free time for family togetherness. Appropriate measures should also be taken by the authorities in the field of education to introduce compulsory drug education in all educational institutions and train teachers to provide drug prevention education. Awareness-raising campaigns should be carried out through the media; theatre and essay competitions, performances, and recitation competitions should be organized in educational institutions, colleges, and universities in order to raise awareness. Appropriate counselling for early users as well as anti-drug youth cells should be developed in colleges and universities. If we adopt these strategies with integrity and good faith, we can not only control the evils of drug use but eradicate it, especially from our youth and society in general. The effectiveness of strategies used in educational institutions should be examined to address the problem of drug and substance abuse. Teachers should contact and consult immediately with parents and take action to deal with drug and substance abuse cases. All educational institutions used guidance and counseling to address the problem of drug abuse. This is a popular strategy adopted by many educational institutions, and it was not surprising that it was adopted by all educational institutions in the study. Enhancing counseling and advisory sessions in high educational institutions would minimize substitutes and make high educational institutions drug-free. In addition to counseling students, all educational institutions should involve parents in the treatment of drug abuse, although parents are only invited when their children become involved in drug abuse.

In Pakistan, 8.1 million people are addicted to drugs, 50,000 new drug users have been added to the list of drug addicts annually. As per the vision and leadership of Army Chief General Asim Munir, aims to build a Drug Free Pakistan, the Ministry of Federal Education and Training under the supervision of Mr. Waseem Ajmal Chaudhary Federal Secretray, launched the Roll-out of the Anti-Drug Awareness Campaign, organized by PEIRA and ANF.  By working together and taking responsibility as a society and parents, we can strive to eradicate drugs from educational institutions and create a brighter future.

Like all other institutions, universities have a legal responsibility to implement all relevant national laws and policies and should join hands with all stakeholders including psychologists and psychiatrists, social workers, NGOs, and others to address the problem of unlawful drug and tobacco abuse. To ensure that HEIs contribute to the reduction of drug abuse and smoking, this policy has been made pursuant to the powers granted to the HEC under the Higher Education Commission Ordinance, 2002. It is binding on all HEIs in the country, whether operating in the public or private sectors. Violations or failures to comply with the HEC’s policies may lead to regulatory action being taken against non-compliant HEIs. The policy supplements national and provincial legislation on drug and tobacco use including the Drugs Act, of 1976, the Control of Narcotics Substances Act XXV, 1997, the Drug Regulatory Act, of 2012, and the Prohibition of Smoking in Enclosed Places and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance, 2002 (Ordinance No. LXXIV of 2002). Youth at risk refers to young individuals who face multiple challenges that pose a threat to their future, including poverty, violence, abuse, neglect, mental health problems, and substance abuse. These challenges can have adverse effects on their physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development, resulting in negative outcomes such as school dropout, criminal behavior, delinquency, homelessness, and addiction. According to a survey conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), approximately 8 percent of university students in Pakistan have used illegal drugs at least once, with cannabis being the most commonly used substance. Drug abuse not only harms an individual’s health and well-being but also affects their academic performance, relationships, and future prospects. Additionally, drug addiction can lead to criminal activity, violence, and the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, among others. Therefore, it is crucial to raise awareness about the dangers of drug abuse and provide prevention, intervention, and treatment services to those in need. The National Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010 should also be reviewed to meet the needs of educational institutions and new challenges and international obligations. The policy on all aspects of narcotics and dangerous drugs, such as production, processing, marketing, import, export, transshipment trafficking, etc., should also be reviewed in conformity with national objectives, laws, and international conventions and agreements. Special legislation should made covering all aspects of narcotics and psychotropic substances and matters ancillary thereto, in consultation with the concerned Ministries and Divisions, etc. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation with foreign countries should be enhanced against narcotics trafficking and all other international aspects of narcotics including negotiations for bilateral and multilateral agreements for mutual assistance and cooperation in the field of enforcement of narcotic laws. Coordination of aid and assistance from foreign countries should also be focused on narcotics control interdiction for poppy crop substitution. Effective policy should be implemented on drug education, treatment, and rehabilitation of narcotics and drug addicts grants-in-aid to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in these fields, and Inter-provincial coordination on all aspects of narcotics and dangerous drugs. Effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms should also be reviewed for the implementation of policies on all aspects of narcotics and dangerous drugs. The special budget should also be allocated for educational institutions for the regulation of administrative, budgetary, and other matters of the ANF. The government should take special measures for educational institutions with a three-pronged strategy, that includes supply reduction, demand reduction, and co-ordination at national and international levels. Besides this, the National Narcotics Control Committee for educational institutions, comprised of prominent and eminent educationists and stakeholders should also be formulated to address this issue domestically with firm commitment. Pakistan is striving to meet the challenges of the menace of drugs. Notwithstanding the shortfalls and challenges, we must continue to strive hard in its resolve and efforts to fight against the menace of drugs. There is a need to join hands against this social evil, to cooperate with all segments of society in the fight against the curse of narcotics, and to create awareness among our masses. More needs to be done to effectively address this issue and prioritize education, awareness, and rehabilitation. By working together and taking responsibility as a society and parents, we can strive to eradicate drugs from educational institutions and create a brighter future.

By admin

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