Drug addiction is a common problem of youths these days. Most studies reveal that drug addicts are from the urban areas where there is sufficient flow of money to buy products but, it is so untrue if we consider the case of Darjeeling because increasing addicts are mostly from rural tea garden areas. Drug use, addiction is very less talked about in Darjeeling yet the supply and demand are so alarming. Darjeeling is a small town and a heart of West Bengal where tea, transport and tourism are considered the greatest business.
The number of addicts in the beautiful hills is increasing day by day and is common, especially among the school-going children. Tea garden areas are most vulnerable in this regard because the peddlers establish their contacts and supply from this area where they are far from police surveillance.
Many in rural areas suffer due to poverty, illiteracy and financial crisis. The idea of the dealers is to compel the school going children to supply drugs by giving them money and drugs in return. Another important factor is that Darjeeling has a close border with Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Bihar where they converge at Siliguri from where there is an effortless supply of Drugs at cheaper prices.
The Covid19 pandemic has hit globally by taking the lives of people. Worldwide government is accepting social distancing and lockdown as a foremost measure to help reduce transmission of the virus. The youths who use drugs or the ones who are undergoing treatment are most vulnerable in Covid19 situations.
The Covid19 situation has increased police surveillance that has hampered the supply of products which in turn has a serious implication on drug users. The users who obtain outpatient facilities have a chance of relapsing even if a single dose is missed and the out-patient treatment facility is not possible because of lockdown. The government introduced techniques of social distancing and lockdown which is very conducive to drug use.
Peer groups play a key role in the lives of youths that help them shape themselves as an individual. Peer groups are considered a major agent for the person becoming addicted. This is so erroneous because the addict often blames peer groups for their addiction, which in most cases are caused by other important factors like problems in a family. Due to the social distancing techniques, online socialization with peers is taking place which has a possibility of reducing peer pressure hence increase withdrawal symptoms.
The youths seeking recovery advice as an outpatient visitor is at greater risk of relapsing because online advice cannot always work in case of a person who uses drugs at a higher rate. Darjeeling people fear even to take the name drugs it is considered taboo. People are not very comfortable to talk about their children becoming addicts. Recently the government has opened various helpline numbers for any mental health problems and for the people with substance abuse.
The times of India on 24th April 2020 New Delhi has estimated distress calls from alcoholics and drug users spiked by 200%. In the times of Covid19 situation, it makes government aware and triggers them to help the people in need. The biggest reasons for the calls are the closure of shops and the breakdown of the supply of narcotics. This is a welcome development in terms of government, but it is life-threatening for the substance abusers. There has been an active call from the states like Bihar reporting withdrawal symptoms, but the data doesn’t show any calls from West Bengal. This is because drug addiction is stigmatized; we are not accepting drug use as a serious problem in our state.
The question is what can we do to help drug users in Darjeeling who needs help? When there is continuous talk about migrants suffering in Covid19 when we are discussing mental health issues we are leaving behind a very significant issue that is of Covid19 implications on drug addicts. It is a duty of government to consider this issue as a very prominent one and the government has to work in collaboration with active Ngo’s to help the youths seeking advice for de-addiction and for those who are facing withdrawal symptoms.
In West Bengal, many Ngo’s have stopped in-patient rehabilitation facility because of Covid19 and they are not accepting new admission of the ones who need help. So it is the role of government and Ngo’s to come together and establish alternative methods for the victims seeking help. The role of the family is very vital because they need to talk about drug addiction and if their children are suffering they have to contact various helpline numbers. Drug addiction is not something which children can overcome overnight with love and care it is a sickness that has to be treated if you want to nip it in the bud.
Unless we talk about it nothing will change! let’s have international anti-drug day every day.
Say no to drugs!
Writes: Priyanka Tamang Lama. She is a passionate child social worker and a PhD research scholar currently working as an Assistant Professor, Sociology in Darjeeling.