In India, just like around the world, addiction to
alcohol, tobacco chewing, smoking and hard drugs is taking its
toll on young people.
Peer pressure and high parental expectations add to the pressure. Not fully realising that alcohol is also a
drug, a teenager may use it to relax or escape from stress. With
time, the abuse of alcohol can give rise to a feeling of inadequacy, lowered self-esteem, estranged relationships, impaired
reasoning and judgement, dependence and gradual
personality deterioration. Even beer, which is often thought to be
safe to drink, can impair rational thinking and lead to
irrational behaviour. It can also be responsible for delayed
reaction time, which may increase the risk of automobile
accidents. And then, there is always a possibility of graduating
from beer to harder stuff.
And while puffing a cigarette may seem less hazardous
and life threatening in youth, a single cigarette is said to reduce the lifespan by 5 minutes. Even if we close our eyes to
the long-term dangers like cancer and heart disease, what
about simple effects like bad breath and staining of teeth?
These do not help in becoming popular with friends! Smoking also
has an immediate effect on our lungs, resulting in frequent
attacks of cough, possible wheezing, poor stamina, and an
adverse effect on performance in competitive sports.
The list of risks that result from exposure to smoking (active or passive) includes asthma, middle ear
infection, chronic lung disease, sudden infant death syndrome
(SIDS), hearing defects, lower intelligence quotients, increased risk of
inflammable bowel disease (with bleeding per rectum), hypertension and bacterial meningitis. Permanent
genetic changes that increase the risk of lung cancer occur in teenagers who smoke, even if they quit later in life.
Among young smokers, cigarette smoke also contributes to the formation of low-density lipoproteins
(LDL) — the
so-called ‘bad cholesterol’ — and this to heart disease.
Smoking is also linked to low sperm count in males and a 64% increase in
miscarriage risk when parents smoke.
Experts from the British National Dental Health Foundation reveal that children as young as 12 years
old have been diagnosed with pre-cancerous lesions in the mouth due to the use of gutkha. They warn that if
its sale is not restricted, it could lead to a rapid
spread of mouth cancer having a high mortality rate.
DIAGNOSIS: Early diagnosis of addiction to drugs is important. It may save the child as well as prevent the
breakdown of the family. Counselling by parents or
experts can help get rid of the habit if detected early enough.
Do consider the possibility of addiction if you find
that your son (or daughter) gets tired easily, has started keeping
odd sleeping hours and has a poor appetite, does not care
about his/her appearance, gets easily annoyed or depressed, shuns company and keeps getting congestion or redness of the
eyes. You may also start getting complaints from his/her
school or college. In certain cases, the addiction may even lead
to depression and attempted suicide.
But before you start spying on your teenager, keep in
mind that most of the above symptoms can also be found in growing children who either have no major problem or have some
physical or behavioural problem unrelated to the agents
under discussion. Confirmation of addiction should be left to the doctor.
As the addiction grows, withdrawal symptoms can be detected when the addict wakes up. He/she appears
restless, his/her eyes and nose water, he/she complains of
abdominal cramps and develops diarrhoea, vomiting and mental confusion.
PREVENTION: As parents, you can play an important role in curbing such dangerous trends by helping your
children develop self-esteem and character from an early age. Encourage them to communicate freely with you on any
subject. Provide them the help to realise their inner
potential. Encourage them to take part in extra-curricular
activities and sports. Teach them the value of health and the need to preserve it to live life fully.
11 February, 2013