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How high is Mumbai

| DYUTI BASU
Published : Jun 26, 2016, 12:14 am IST
Updated : Jun 26, 2016, 12:14 am IST

On International Day Against Drug Abuse, we take a look at the situation in Mumbai, through the eyes of experts and former addicts

A Still from Dev D
 A Still from Dev D

On International Day Against Drug Abuse, we take a look at the situation in Mumbai, through the eyes of experts and former addicts

I found Bombay and opium, the drug and the city, the city of opium and the drug Bombay — Jeet Thayil’s line from his book Narcopolis is one of the many that documents the city’s affair with drugs. Interestingly, precious little has been documented in an organised manner by any official body, rues Eldred Tellis, founder of Sankalp Rehabillation Trust. “Despite having all these institutions like TISS and IIT, there is no comprehensive estimate or demographic report regarding drug users in Mumbai. Most of it is still guess work.”

But if Dr. Jayesh Shah’s personal observation is anything to go by, the numbers are on the rise. A doctor at Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Serves and Center, he says, “The situation is deteriorating in Mumbai. There are more addicts now than a year ago. New drugs have come up, like Mephedrone, also known as Mcat or Meow Meow. Drugs like crystal meth and ecstasy are on the rise too. Brown sugar is also beginning to make reappearance in the last year after being gone for almost a decade.”

Consumption of these drugs of course, is determined by how much money you’re able to spend on the high. “Users of Meth and ecstasy are middle and upper-middle class people, while Mephedrone is more common among the lower classes. Upper classes also use a lot of cocaine, because it can cost anything from three and a half to Rs 6,000 for one gram. Typical users are anywhere from 18 to 30 years old.”

People like Eldred and Dr Shah constantly work towards ridding the society of the menace. Having worked on multiple cases of substance abuse, Eldred insists that we as a city or society need to work on our rehab ways. “The one size fits all method for treating drug addicts is absolutely wrong. Each case is unique. Sometimes the police, after raiding a rave party will throw everyone in rehab. Among those people, a number of them are first time users, who I believe, should be given community-based work to spread awareness instead.”

Having said that, there have been many success stories that keep the organisation’s work and spirit going.

Should Marijuana be legalised Tellis says, “While I’m not going to go on the streets and fight for marijuana to be made legal, I don’t see any problem with it. Alcohol causes much more harm than marijuana worldwide, so if alcohol is legal, then why not marijuana. And maybe, if people get easier access to weed, they will not go for chemical drugs. I do think that quality checks and contamination checks are two things that need to be maintained, though.”

Dr Shah disagrees. “I do not believe that it should be made legal. What will happen is that people who use these substances will continue while more people will start using. I do not believe that marijuana is harmless. I think that the demand for drugs needs to be reduced through awareness and supply has to be reduced by monitoring, and only in this way will drug use go down.”

Confessions of reformed addicts I was 13 when I got into addiction. It started with smoking and then went up to smoking weed and charas. It started with one, then it was two, then ten and twenty a day. I got involved with the wrong friends; I would not call it peer pressure, as much as it was showing off. I used to be quite good at studies but after I started with these habits, my grades started going down and I failed class eight. I cleaned up my act for a while but after class ten, I started making more and more friends, who were addicts and hanging around the koliwadas which are like the drug pits of Mumbai. Around this time, I started doing brown sugar as well. I did not have a job and I was kicked out of a vocational course I had been doing, so my relationship with my family was at an all-time low. I hated them for not giving me money and even started stealing things from my own home and from neighbours to feed my addiction.

I tried to pull myself out of it many times and even cut ties with many of my friends, but couldn’t deal with the pain of withdrawals, so I’d keep relapsing. I finally went to a rehab at 18 and went through the entire detox process, only to slide back off the wagon as soon as I was out. I put myself back in rehab and got in shape. Now I teach yoga and meditation at the rehab and have started to build back the relationship I had with my family. Admitted to Kripa Foundation (name withheld on request)

I come from a tribe in Darjeeling, which is known for gambling, drinking and drugging, so my introduction to drugs came at an early age. At 12 and 13, I was already smoking up and drinking with friends. I am lucky enough that even with the least amount of effort, I got good marks when it comes to my studies. In ninth grade, though, I was kicked out of school for not having enough attendance. At around this time, I went to Siliguri and the drug scene there is quite rampant. People are into ecstasy, pills, cough syrup, and lots of other things. I tried different things and got hooked on cough syrup.

My mom finally caught me with drugs in my pocket. I was locked in my room and I wouldn’t talk but I still managed to sneak in drugs. I ran away from home once and when I came back, I realised how much I was worrying my family. That’s when I thought of rehab. It was actually a fun process and I saw so many people who were like me. I came to Mumbai to continue the treatment, and have just come out clean after completing the treatment at the rehab. Right now, I feel like I’m thinking clearer than I was and I like living without drugs more than I liked being addicted to them. admitted to Kripa Foundation (name withheld on request)