Shillong: If the Union health ministry’s survey is any indicator, the children of the frontier state of Meghalaya are in the grip of tobacco and other addictions like heroin.
The reports of the ministry claim that at least 96.4 per cent children use tobacco whereas alarming 27.3 per cent children have got addicted to narcotic stuff like heroin.
This came to light recently in a conference at Shillong on “Substance, Suicide and Adolescents: Effects of Substance Abuse and Suicide in Adolescents”. It was hosted by the Woodland Institute of Nursing in collaboration with St Anthony’s College in Shillong.
The director of the Woodland Institute of Nursing, Dr W Kharshiing, said, “Tobacco use by children is maximum in Meghalaya at 96.4 per cent followed by Nagaland at 95.8 per cent and Sikkim at 93.1 per cent. In Uttarakhand, 90 per cent children are addicted to tobacco. In Goa, 36.7 per cent consume tobacco while in Delhi, 69.7 per cent use tobacco.”
Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma has acknowledged the seriousness of prevailing scenario. “We can sense how urgent and important this issue is to our state and especially to the youths of our nation. It is harming our society in ways we cannot even imagine,” said Mr Sangma.
He added that there must be a support system to ensure that whenever a challenge emerges, there is a system that could guide the youths to the right path.
Mr Sangma said, “If we look at the issue of substance abuse and suicide, this has got the capacity to really channel the energy in all the wrong ways and if this were to happen, I think the country is already finished before it even starts.”
Pointing out at the rise in drug-related issues in the state and the region becoming a gateway for transportation of various kinds of drugs, Mr Sangma said, “We know these challenges. Simply making policies to have checks and measures will not be enough. Awareness among the youths is equally important.”
Pointing out that a survey conducted by the health and family welfare ministry in 2012 revealed that 28.6 per cent boys aged between 15 and 19 used tobacco while 15 per cent were addicted to alcohol, he said that the same survey had also found that among girls aged between 15 and 19, 5.5 per cent used tobacco while four per cent were addicted to alcohol.
He regretted that the use of heroin was also seen to be the highest in Meghalaya at 27.3 per cent followed by Punjab at 19.3 per cent.
“The use of injectable drugs, the statistics showed, is rampant in children with 88.6 per cent taking them in Mizoram, followed by Meghalaya and Rajasthan at 25 per cent. In Maharashtra, this number is 23.5 per cent, in Punjab it is 13 per cent and in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Madhya Pradesh it is 11 per cent,” he said, adding that in other states, the percentage is below seven.
Stating that the abuse goes beyond alcohol and tobacco and it often involves cocaine, heroin and opium, he reiterated that substance abuse among adolescents is one of the major areas of concern.
With a turnover of around $500 billions, it is the third largest business in the world, next to petroleum and arms trade, he said while adding that about 190 million people all over the world consume one drug or the other.
Admitting that the numbers of drug addicts are increasing day by day, he pointed out that the intravenous injections of analgesics like dextropropoxphene etc. are also reported from many states.