In recent weeks there has been increasing attention in the western media given to the Punjab drug epidemic. This is not a new problem but things are getting worse as almost a whole generation of young people is being lost to recreational drugs. If effective action is not taken to deal with the problem it will mean dark days ahead for this part of the world.
The extent of drug addiction in Punjab is alarming. Near border areas the rate of heroin abuse among 15 to 25 year olds is as high as 75% – the percentage is 73% in other rural areas throughout the region. A Department of Social Security Development of Women and Children suggested that as many as 67% of rural households in Punjab will have at least one drug addict in the family. There is at least one death due to drug overdose each week in the region.
The recreational drugs that users in Punjab are most likely to us include:
* Bhuki is similar to a type of wild grass that can be found throughout Punjab. It is possible to get a mild intoxicating effect from Bhuki, and it is considered a gateway drug because it encourages young people to begin experimenting.
* Heroin addiction is getting the most attention in the media. It is believed that this narcotic is flooding in from Afghanistan via Pakistan.
* Opium and morphine are other types of opiate that are commonly abused.
* Many brands of toothpaste in the region contain nicotine. There are reports of people consuming excessive amounts of toothpaste because it is a relatively cheap way to experience nicotine high.
Heroin is the drug that is causing most concern in the region. There authorities take a tough stance on borderline security, but despite this the drug continues to flood into the area. The profits to be made are high and corruption is believed to be rife. Most of the heroin going through Punjab ends up in the rest of the continent, but the fact there is such a high appetite for the drug locally means that smugglers have an easy market to exploit.
Heroin addiction not only hurts the individual but also their family, community, and society as a whole. The dangers of such abuse to the individual include:
* Death from overdose is common with this drug. It can be hard to judge the purity of this opiate and if people get it wrong it can cost them their life.
* It is possible to become addicted to heroin in a relatively short time period.
* Once the individual becomes addicted they can lose interest in everything else.
* Maintaining a heroin habit is expensive and in many instances the individual will need to resort to crime to feed their habit.
* Heroin abuse is damaging to almost every organ in the body.
* The longer the individual mains addicted to this drug the more they will lose. Everything that they cherish in life will be taken away including their self respect.
* As the individual develops a tolerance for heroin they will need to use more to get the same effect.
* Young people who abuse this drug risk destroying their future. Addiction means that the individual becomes unemployable.
Family and friends suffer because:
* They have to watch their loved one self destruct.
* The addicted family member will usually steal off the rest of the family.
* Money that could be spent on improving conditions for the family is wasted on drugs.
* The addict may become violent and cause physical harm to family and friends.
* Loved ones may have to suffer shame as they are judged negatively for having an addict in the family.
Society suffers due to heroin abuse because:
* It means lost productivity as so many young people will not be fit for work.
* Health care costs of treating addiction are a tremendous drain on resources.
* Some parts of the region become unsafe because of the rising levels of crime due to heroin addiction.
* The greatest asset that any country has is its young people. The high numbers of young people in Punjab addicted to drugs is a national disgrace.
* The cost of policing the drug problem is a drain on resources.
There appears to be a number of reasons for why Punjab is currently in the midst of a drug epidemic such as:
* It is easy for young people to begin experimenting with substance abuse because of the ease by which they can get their hands on bhuki. This plant grows wild and it is difficult to prevent young people from using it.
* Some commentators in Punjab are blaming the green revolution which has led to a food surplus. This has meant that young people have been overindulged with nothing to do as there is not the same urgency to till the land.
* Heroin is easily available throughout the region and it is relatively cheap. There is growing affluence in this region and this may also be encouraging people to experiment with these substances.
* Some of those living in the region fear that it may be a form of narco-terrorism and those groups in bordering countries are deliberately trying to turn the youth of Punjab into addicts.
* The location of Punjab means that most of the heroin will pass through this area on its way to India.
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