LOCKDOWN ILLS: Drug abuse among slum children and youths soar by 50%

BHOPAL: Drug addiction among children and youths in slums in the city has increased by almost 50% because of the lockdown.

Social organisations and activists working in slum localities say that boredom, lack of work, closure of schools and the confinement to homes - all have contributed to the growth in drug addiction among children, teenagers and young adults. Many who were rendered unemployed due to lockdown, switched to peddling intoxicants, they say.†

Social activist Mahesh Jharbade, who has been working in slum clusters in MP Nagar, Bagh Mugalia and Gandhi Nagar areas for 10 years, says that the number of child addicts has increased during the lockdown. ìIf three out of 10 children were addicted earlier, now their number is seven,î he says.

According to Jharbade, when things were normal, work kept the children and young adults away from addiction. ìAddiction has increased by 50% during the lockdown,î he says. He said that easy availability of addictive substances was also one major reason for it.

Neelam, who is associated with a UNICEF project on child protection, says that the lockdowns have definitely increased addiction. "The percentage of addicts among youngsters has increased from 50% to 80%," she says.

Neelam says that the best way to keep children away from addiction was to keep them away from their bastis. "When the situation was normal, we used to send them to schools, we took them on trips, we held discussions with them. But all that stopped during the lockdown. The children had lots of time and nothing to do and so they got drawn towards addiction," she says. She adds that the addicts are only boys who mainly use whiteners and ganja. Covid-19 has increased the challenges for social activists, she says.

Shivani of Muskaan NGO also agrees that the pandemic has increased addiction. ìAlmost every boy consumes gutkha. And in every slum cluster, you can find someone who can make ganja available to you ,î she says.†

†Shivraj Kushwaha of Shakshareta Social and Welfare Society, who has been working in slum clusters in Bittan Market and Habibganj area, says that the situation was grim. During the lockdown, children could do without food but not without gutkha or whitensers. He also says that all kinds of intoxicants and addictive substances are easily available in the slum clusters. ìIn fact, during the lockdown, when there was no work, many started selling ganja to earn some money,î he says.

Prashant of Awaz Sanstha said that the conditions during the lockdown did promote addiction. "There was no diversion for children. So they fell for addiction in large numbers," he said.

No de-addiction centre for children in city

Drug addiction among children is a matter of deep concern. We would be writing to the police and administrative officers to crackdown on the drug peddlers in slum clusters. It is unfortunate that there is no de-addiction centre for children in the city. We would also like to launch a campaign to control this problem.

-Brajesh Chauhan, Member, MP Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

45% children buy intoxicants from their own income: Survey

According to a survey, 83% of child addicts are using tobacco, 67% are using alcohol while 35.4% are using cannabis. Heroine/smack is being used by 7.6% children while 12.6% are using injectable drugs. The survey says that 45% children buy intoxicants from their own income while 42.5% use money provided by their parents. Around 14% of the children steal from their homes and 7.9% from outside to arrange money. Others beg, borrow from friends or help selling stolen articles.

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