The Problem

Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

“Whether we accept it or not, almost everyone is an addict. From the mild to the severe, of some persuasion or another, to some degree or another, from some reason or another and with some consequence or another. This is not only a fact of life but the inconvenient truth”.

Please reflect on the above and think it through. Of course we want to think that we, or a loved one is not an addict. We also know drug abuse is a major problem faced by society today. You must have seen or heard of the movie 'Udta Punjab' and know the reality that exists today! But how often do we talk to our children about drugs and alcohol, and their impact on studies, behaviour and performance?

As protective parents and teachers, we often try to avoid bringing such topics in our conversation with our young ones, afraid of the confrontation, or the reaction. But this very lack of awareness and the consequences is what makes a student experiment with it, whether out of curiosity or by peer pressure. Thus a habit is initiated unknowingly and innocently, but one that undoubtedly will be harmful for the rest of their life. Studies have shown that most young adolescents have been introduced to drugs by their peers under the guise that it is harmless, will help them feel good, add to their 'Cool' image, or get rid of anxiety, stress and depression.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conducted a survey across India with 60,000 school children across 15 Indian states, with maximum number of respondents being between 14-17 years old. The research found out that many did not know that addiction is the mother of all disease like cancer, AIDS and all communicable disease combined. Because of the lack of awareness, prevention and intervention are seldom considered. The factors contributing to such indulgences are peer pressure (34%) and a negative family environment (30%). Emotional trauma and academic underachievement comprise the rest. The 2004 ‘National survey on the Extent, Patterns and Trends of Drug abuse in India’, indicated that the average age of substance use initiation was 18 years of age. However, additional evidence from the UNODC survey revealed that age of initiation was as early as 10-11 years of age!

Your child may be impressed by another uninformed child, by movie heroes, social media or acceptance by society as a way to celebrate any success or happy event. After many years of research in the field of addiction, Mr. Agarwal found that people simply do not know that alcohol is a drug. Almost everyone said, "Oh, I didn't know that. Why didn't someone tell me?" In fact, it is the only drug legally available to ensure permanent damage to careers, finances, health and the family. And despite exceptions, the relapse rate from addiction worldwide is unacceptable. Further that prescription drugs were not the answer. This is because most therapies address the conscious and physiological, whereas the roots of addiction lie predominantly in the subconscious. Possibly a result of some childhood trauma or the effects of the environment we are brought up in.

Over the years, it is apparent to him that a new approach must be taken. That of motivation, inspiration and self realization. Emotional triggers cause addiction are far more than those caused by external factors such as people, places and events. As per the UNODC report, according to students, the factors that have prevented them to indulge in drug use are: high self-esteem - 38%, protective parental role models - 34%, positive role models in the media - 13%. The remaining 15% are the vulnerable target we have at hand, our children. Let our children not become a part of this grim statistic.

Taking this into consideration, Mr. Agarwal believes that the need of the hour is to enable the parent and student to first understand the very nature of the problem, it's urgency and the consequences. The problem, he says, is that our youth are in denial. Many times the parents are too. “Oh no, not my child! And if he or she is drinking or smoking it up, they will get over it. I don’t have the time or want to deal with it”. And the school, fully aware of the situation, is unwilling or unable to defuse this ticking time bomb.

The key solution is to get into the child’s subconscious, find out why, explain the consequences and show them ways to find alternatives to their habit. His book 'The Accidental Addict and The Power of Positive Thinking' talks about this and more. He does counseling workshops with schools, colleges and universities, and also individual counseling sessions with parents and families who are in despair, and simply do not know where to go or what to do, and wait till the problem becomes acute and unmanageable.