Children below the age of 20 becoming victims of drug abuse, UN official says at int'l forum

Child trafficking, child labour and exploitation result in poor mental and physical health, leading to a high risk of drug abuse
Representational image| Picture: Express illustrations
Representational image| Picture: Express illustrations

A top United Nations official said today, November 17, that almost 13% of drug abuse and substance victims in India are below the age of 20 and it is essential to step up community intervention and prevention mechanisms that target this age group, stated a report by IANS. The Programme Officer of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Billy Batware, while speaking at the International Forum on 'Children Matter - Right to a Drug-Free Childhood' said, "Children face increased risk of drugs and alcohol abuse due to their poor mental and physical health resulting from violence, exploitation and sexual abuse against them. Nine out of 10 people with drug addiction begin using substances before they are 18 years old. In its 2021-25 strategy, UNODC has defined harnessing the transformative power of youth and children as one of its three cross-cutting commitments," as reported by IANS. He also stated that issues such as child trafficking, child labour and exploitation result in poor mental and physical health leading to a high risk of drug abuse and alcohol abuse. Socio-economic hardships and lack of opportunities are leading children to get involved in crime. 

The Director of Fourth Wave Foundation (FWF) India, CC Joseph, said that there is a steep increase in the use of drugs among children and the number of crimes involving children and drugs has increased drastically in Kerala. "Lack of trained public healthcare officials to work with children, child treatment and child care protocols is a grave issue in the state. Project VENDA, being carried out by FWF in Kerala, addresses, at scale, the need for capacity building to manage the cycle of care and treatment. This programme has been following a multi-pronged approach of prevention, treatment, recovery and drug demand reduction, besides health education at an early age through school-centric interventions. The programme is designed and executed with full community participation," said Joseph, as stated by IANS.

Kavita Ratna, Director of Advocacy and Fundraising, in a panel discussion on Global Drug Policy Advocacy and Fundraising, said that the children working in India said that substance abuse affects children both as users and as victims. She also said that children are also entitled to state protection and it is essential that they have the opportunity to live in a drug-free society, as stated in the report.

Arun Kandasamy, professor of Psychiatry, Centre for Addiction Medicine, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, said that with the vulnerability factor being taken into consideration, 70%of adolescents have a family history of addiction. "Adolescents, who are a high-risk group for addiction, often come late to treatment. If they can be identified and treated early, most of the complications and consequences can be reduced," said Kandasamy, as reported by IANS.

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