Today was a day to commemorate the evil of drug abuse in the world. Ironically Micheal Jackson, (http://www.msnbc.com / )an iconic singer for youth died today probably due to overdose of the pain killers medication he was taking on prescription. (See prescription drug abuse on http://www.webmd.com ).Micheal Jackson ruled the hearts of teenagers and ironically at 50 he died a death the reason for which so many parents dread and so many youth suffer. In Pakistan the statistics of all drug use, abuse, substance abuse are unknown. The UNO gives some figures based on some incomplete data provided by government structures but all is unreliable. The facts are such that;
As I used to drive down Hazara and often, Islamabad -Peshawar highway (in 1990) , I would see young people sitting in remote areas outside their villages using drugs. The city of Karachi is thriving in areas and places where drugs are openly sold, addicts live and die in these areas. The police does neither control supply of drugs nor face the mafia. In affluent areas the supply is also free by vendors in small shops and cycle riding cheap goods sellers and near the Seaview , Karachi pretending to be camera operators and chai wallas.
When I was a child my mother then the member of Karachi Divisional Council, education committee often fought and got a few school vendors especially in Lyari areas , which the administration removed for temporary times. They would inevitably return. This was some 40 years ago. After Zia ul Haq regime and Afghan war, this menace has come out of Lyari and is all over Karachi and Pakistan.
The various NGO's are mostly working with adults and a few with street children . Some are doing a fine job albiet a miniscule one while others who are working with HIV AIDs are making a lot of money.The amount of job at hand is enormous whereas the capacity is miniscule.
As was bieng debated on media what are the causes of drug use in youth, they are the same all over the world.
Poverty, lack of parental attention, stress, anxiety, depression, peer pressure,easy access to drugs, satisfaction,sense of achievement all count.In places likse USA drug use is decreasing due to interventions both at the state level and at the societal level. In Pakistan this problem is increasing because of the following factors;
Close proximity of areas of production(poppy in Afghanistan)
Smuggling and illegal drug trade into Pakistan.
Pakistan is inthe route of world drug trade(poppy and it's derivatives )
Poverty in Pakistan.
Corruption and lack of state control in narcotics.
Lack of control on sale of drugs(both prescription and over the counter)
Children are often sent to the quacks/doctors/chemists to fetch medicine(jake dawai le ao meaning go get medicine)(not even qualified as most chemist shops are run by non chemist although a legal clause and binding is there).
Lack of education and easy social access to drug dealers and providers.
Males especially of illiterate , slum areas are least likely to be governed or asked about their daily behaviuor.
Many children in slum area are going to school and in the process take drugs.
Many poor children have to start work early( in age) and are away from home for a long period of daily routine and are unsupervised when they are returning from work.
Often these children are hungry for normal food and bieng children are vulnerable to influences and friendship induced influence.
Youth of relatively affluent areas especially from landed or politically powerful families is encouraged as a sign of affluence to smoke and substance abuse(including alcohol, heroin and cocaine).
Lack of awareness of drug abuse amongst middle class and upper middle class parents.
The following actions are urgently needed to fight this menace;
The anti narcotic strategy has to be revisited and its force prepared almost like an army.
The smuggling routes and it's entry into cities has to be blocked.
The police has to be taken to task on this corruption. Some new accountability laws have to be made and implemented.
The supply line has to be broken. Very tough measures should be taken by the government. I think they should catch a few big fish and make them an example.
The government should launch massive awareness campaigns in all schools including private schools. Drug abuse education should be made a part of curriculum.
The government should dedicate helplines for youth and parents with information and diversion to rehabilitation centers or hospitals. There should be dedicated drug rehabilitation centers in all major cities in tertiary care hospitals.This can be done like in Jinnah hospital in Karachi.
Public awareness campaigns should be run every day on television and radio.
Stars including of music and cricket should volunteer for fighting this menace.
All internet and mobile companies should give some free messages everyday.
If we seriuosly get down to fight against drugs then ther is no way the drug mafia can eat our children away.
We must avoid this attitude which I noticed in most government functionaries and even the UNO representative, of just doing a fixed job,making his salary money and letting the monster grow.
We must urge and motivate the youth itself to fight this menace as a jihad and not let it strike in the first place.
I was so touched by the two boys,one 18 and the other 20 who came on CNBC -Pakistan Awam Ki Awaz with Nadia Naqi and said that when we can fight it inspite of poverty, illiteracy, no help and even after contracting a disease as lethal as HIV-AID. These guys are the real icons , the real hope for Pakistan in our fight against DRUGS!