Substance Abuse in Minors a Worry
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30 April 2010
By Mihir Tanksale
Muktangan De-Addiction Centre Treating 15-Year-Olds
Substance abuse –excessive use of drugs and alcohol–is rising among school–going teens in the city, some as young as 15 years of age, project director of the city-based Muktangan De–addiction Centre Mukta Puntambekar said.
The de–addiction centre has been taking in youngsters in this age group for treatment. “This indicates that they began consuming drugs earlier, possibly when they were 12 years old,” said Puntambekar. The centre has also treated two children addicted to computer games.
Earlier, those attending de–addiction programmes were above 20 years while alcoholics seeking rehabilitation were above 30 years. “Now, school–going children are taking to substance abuse which is alarming,” Puntambekar said.
In 2007–2008, the centre treated 1,362 patients. Of these, 21 were minors. In 2008–2009, 28 of the 1,500 patients at the centre were underage and in 2009–2010 there were 27 among the 1,376 who were minors.
The children undergoing de–addiction were from all over the country. They also came from different strata – from the slums, middle and affluent classes. “We are treating children into narcotics and alcohol abuse. Children are particularly addicted to whiteners and cough syrups,” Puntambekar said.
She held lifestyle changes and the deep influence of television and movies as reasons for children taking to substance abuse. Counseling sessions had revealed other reasons too, Puntambekar said.
“We found that many children had started consuming drugs because of misconceptions. Some took to them for fun. Some to destress or to gain a sense of power and confidence,” she added .
She cited the example of a minor addict who had grown up watching his father drink at home. He was told that it was a cold drink to release stress. “Naturally, the boy started drinking at an early age whenever he felt tense. Parents should also talk openly about substance abuse and give their children some sex education,” she said.
The centre had also observed that after getting treated at the rehabilitation centre, addicts below the age of 30 years may go back to drugs or alcohol. “Parents should keep a regular followup with the centre for their children’s sake,” Puntambekar added.
The centre runs a fiveweek programme where addicts are counselled. “We take personal care of the patients and counseling the family too. At our ‘half–way home’ facility in the centre, patients stay back after completing the rehabilitation programme. At present, one such patient is preparing for his MPSC exam.”