By- Hritika Jain & Vikram Singh Meena
Substance abuse has become a huge phenomenon in India over past two decades. Drug Abuse basically means use of harmful drugs or alcohol for the purpose to alter mood. It affects all segments of society, but it has a huge impact on the youth because of their high level of vulnerability. It is an issue of national importance. It causes serious threats to every society. It deteriorates health, increase crimes, hampers productivity, destroys relationships, and erode social and moral values which results in impediment in the overall progress of that society. Teen substance abuse is problematic on various levels as it encourages teens to indulge into harmful crimes like gambling, pick-pocketing, burglaries and even murders. This blog will discuss about causes and consequences of substance abuse in youths with special reference to India.
Juvenile Substance abuse has become a major public health concern in India. 1 in 5 teens has admitted to have used drugs for recreational purpose. Substance means a chemical that alters the physical or mental functioning of an individual .The reasons being easy and increasing production, distribution, promotion as well as easy availability of such substance along with the changing values of society. Despite several attempts to limit access to drug, the use of such drugs is common among the youth today. According to WHO (World Health Organization), 90% of children living on the streets are engaged in some kind of substance abuse. These children are usually seen picking rags, polishing shoes, serving food in roadside restaurants, working in vehicle repair shops, or selling trinkets. The most common and easily available substances are alcohol, marijuana usually known as ganja in India, bhang, hashish (charas). Other than these drugs, various kinds of cough syrups, heroin, cocaine, tobacco (cigarette, gutka, pan masala) etc. are abused.
Reasons for Juvenile Substance Abuse:
Substance abuse is a highly complex phenomenon with multiple determinants. There could be more than one reason responsible for it. Teens are likely to abuse substances if they suffer from depression, low self-esteem and impulse issues or under peer-pressure. Teens that have low parental supervision are also at risk of drug abuse. Teens use drugs to feel relaxed and euphoric. They are attractive because they instantly makes one feel better by altering the mood and increasing energy. It also enhances their ability to focus on school projects and academic performance. To summarize, common reasons of teen substance abuse are teens trying to fit in, relieve stress, poor impulse control, to explore their curiosity. Easy access to drugs makes it even easier for teens to get hold of them.
Consequences of substance abuse on juveniles
The problem of substance abuse is becoming very common in juveniles; it is ruining almost everything which a youngster possesses. What adds fuel to the fire is deaths, illnesses, and disabilities which are caused by substance abuse is much higher than any preventable health disease. The consequences of substance abuse include academic struggle, bad physical condition, various psychological problems, poor family relations and involvement in delinquency and what not.
A teenager with declining grade and interest in other academic activities must not be wondering why it’s happening to him, but the bitter truth is reason behind lack of interest and declining grade is substance abuse.
Substance abuse at a young age also deeply affects physical health of the youth. Mainly it depends on the type of substance you take and the biological configuration of your body that how any drug will affect your body. It can have both short-term as well as long-term on physical health. Even teenager’s psychological health is not left unaltered by the substance abuse. There are various mental illnesses that are the result of substance abuse and they are referred to as “substance induced mental disorders”. These include Substance-induced delirium, Substance-induced persisting dementia, Substance-induced persisting amnestic disorder, Substance-induced psychotic disorder, Substance-induced mood disorder, Substance-induced anxiety disorder, Hallucinogen persisting perceptual disorder, Substance-induced sexual dysfunction and Substance-induced sleep disorder. According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association roughly 50% of the individuals with severe mental disorder are affected by substance abuse. It further says that 37% of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness. And of all people who are mentally ill, 29 percent abuse either alcohol or drugs.
Juvenile Substance Abuse: Through the Prism of Law
Children are considered as future of any country. Many great leaders also had their say regarding children, like Former President of India Pranab Mukherji said that children are the future of the country, Former Prime Minister of India Jawahar Lal Nehru said that children of today will make the India of tomorrow and many more leaders gave importance to children as they are future assets. As a greater number of juveniles are becoming addicted to various types of drugs the future of the country is in danger now. And they are becoming vulnerable to various offences. There is a strong connection between substance abuse and delinquency which no one can deny. We can see a decent increase the number of juveniles committing offenses like murder/attempt to murder, rape and burglary and this statement back itself as consuming substance is itself and a punishable offence. Teenagers easily come in contact of person consuming substance and consuming drugs slowly become their habit too.
According to Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, juvenile is any person who has not completed the age of 18 years and all matters related to juveniles will be dealt by Juvenile Justice Boards. More drugs mean more requirements of money and when parents don’t support this then they automatically and unwillingly commit offenses like theft and robbery for money. There is a need for some punishment for them and Juvenile Justice Act prescribes two types of punishment, sentencing and treatment. Detention may involve placement of juvenile in juvenile home or placement, detention centre or confinement at home.
India has a law for the regulation of drug abuse such as Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, (NDPS Act) which was enacted in 1985 and further it was amended in 1989, 2001, 2014. Earlier NDPS Act holds death penalty as a form of punishment, but 2014 amendment held that the decision of awarding death penalty will lie at the discretion of the court and it specified substitute of 30 years imprisonment. Although there are laws for the regulation of drug abuse, but there exists a vacuum of laws which deals especially with juvenile substance abuse. Even these existing laws have various loopholes as they were passed under huge pressure. There isn’t even any specific definition which distinguishes drug abuse in juveniles.
Teenagers and youth are considered to be the future of any nation and this future will only be bright if the youth is on the right path. In a country like India, where youth (15-24 years) consist of 19.1% of the total population of India, it’s very important that the population is regulated properly through laws and if not regulated properly then many of these youth will lose their precious lives. There are about 3 million people who are addicted to various kinds of drugs in India and reality is far worse than what it seems from this data. Many researchers suggest that although drug abuse has become a greater threat than any other threat to the country, it can still be controlled if laws are amended according to the current scenario. In almost all the cases the problem of drug addiction can be resolved through various awareness programs in the community, school and at home and various strategies have to be prepared according to the social structure in which the drug addicts live. Other than this there are various flaws in the current laws which need to be amended. And in addition to that, the government has to come up with new legislation to regulate drug abuse and with that there is need for special provisions for the teenagers.