Drugs still not cool
While we see several ‘no smoking’ awareness campaigns, the issue of drug abuse seems to have fallen by the wayside.
Four and a half years ago, I remember working on a drug-related story. 20-year-old NRI, Anmol Sarna, had mixed 'uppers' and 'downers' at a house party in south Delhi. He added LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide) to the heady cocktail. After experiencing hallucinations that went out of hand, Sarna was picked up by cops and breathed his last in a hospital within a few hours. His mysterious death had caused a drop in the sale and use of LSD in the capital; but, starting this year, Delhi cops say that old Lucy seems to be on the rise again. And it's not only acid, harder stuff that do irrevocable damage are reaching our younger generations faster than ever before.
It is natural that young adults will be prone to experimentation but what's scary is the ease with which they have access to hard drugs. Adults may well choose their recreational poisons, and some die of it too, but to think that the gullible, immature young blood are increasingly getting hooked on to strong chemicals and synthetic drugs is worrying. Ketamine, ecstasy, and MDMA are carried in purses, LSD stamps have made way to LSD biscuits! Hyderabad police seized regular-looking Marie biscuits laced with LSD last year. Eateries in Goa, Gokarna, and Kasol, have waiters that readily sell contraband. Drug peddlers from Israel, Russia, and Nigeria continue to do brisk business in India. Not to mention how easily drugs are available online through the dark web.
The Indian coastguard seized 1,500 kg of heroin last year on a ship off the coast of Gujarat. There is indeed a lot of drugs making its way into India through online sites in China while a substantial amount is passing through our country to the Far East. India, with its geographical proximity to Afghanistan, is a preferred transit route for drug smugglers. Punjab stands to lose an entire generation to drugs. A study suggests that 860,000 young men in Punjab, aged between 15 and 35, are addicted to some form of drug. Heroin is the most popular, followed by opium and crystal methamphetamine. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 10 suicides related to drug abuse happen in India every day, with Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala topping the chart.
So how do we tackle this drug menace? With awareness and better education that highlights the long-term emotional and hormonal repercussions of drug abuse. But when was the last time you noticed an anti-drugs advertisement? Not recently, right? While we see a lot of 'no smoking' awareness campaigns, the issue of drug abuse seems to have fallen by the wayside. But don't for a moment think that it is because people have stopped indulging in drug abuse or it is not freely available. Both presumptions are grossly incorrect. The ease with which drugs are available donning a newer, less suspicious garb is frightening. I am not talking about so-called recreational drugs such as weed or hash, which are addictive as well, but hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines.
Anti-drug campaigns must again become active. Perhaps legalising lighter drugs such as cannabis or marijuana like in the US could also help stem the growth of this menace. Recreational use of cannabis has been made legal in nine US states and decriminalised in another 13 states including the US Virgin Islands.
A special note to youngsters who post pictures of themselves smoking pot on social media: You may want to escape reality and crave a heady state of mind but it is still very much illegal in India. You're also not doing your careers any favour as no job hunter will ever consider your ability to 'crush and roll' a professional strength. Drugs are not cool, and this message has to go out to the younger generations if we must stop them from pissing away their lives.
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)