Over half the drug abusers are adolescents, youth

Adolescents and youths are growing in numbers among the patients undergoing treatment at the Central Drug Addiction Treatment Centre in capital’s Tejgaon area. This observation came up in an analysis of records of the Department of Narcotics Control (NDC) from last eight years.

According to DNC’s latest report on drugs, a total of 1,329 persons have undergone treatment at the central drug addiction centre between 2019 and 2022. Out of them, 915 were aged from 15 to 30 years. In that calculation, almost 69 per cent of the patients, who have undergone treatment there are adolescent and youths.

Earlier, 2,853 people had undergone treatment at the drug addiction centre within the timeframe of 2015 to 2018. Of them, 1,682 were in the age range of 15 to 30, accounting for almost 59 per cent of the total.

There are a total four drug addiction treatment centres, running under government management in the country. Drug addicts are provided with treatment at three more divisional drug addiction treatment centres outside of Dhaka, which are located in Chattogram, Rajshahi and Khulna.

Officials of the preventive education wing at DNC have said there are no recent surveys about drug abusers in the country. They believe the image found in the data analysis on people treated at the central drug addiction treatment centre, is indeed the real picture. That means majority of the drug abusers are forming the addiction in their adolescence and youth.

The DNC report states that 15 to 25 is the most vulnerable age, when considered in in terms of the age group. Almost 41 per cent of the people, undergoing treatment are of this age. They basically are school, college or university students.

They tend to be more curious and a lot more trusting of their friends also. So, many people get tangled with drug abuse at this age. Meanwhile, many among the 25 to 30-years-old suffer from frustration being unable to find jobs at the end of their studies. Some of them get involved in drugs.

Deputy director (preventive education) at the Department of Narcotics Control Majurul Islam told Prothom Alo that excluding curiosity and instigation from friends many youth suffering from frustration also get hooked on drugs. Some become addicted because of breakups also. Then again, many get interested in drugs failing to achieve their expected life goals.

DNC’s latest report on drugs stated that geologically Bangladesh is located near the international drug transportation routes, golden triangle (on the border of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand) and golden crescent (Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan). That’s why Bangladesh is naturally faced with a drug risk.

Besides, there are 32 bordering districts in the country and many of the borders in these districts are exposed. Different types of common and uncommon drugs including yaba, heroin and phensedyl arrive through these borders. These drugs are spreading everywhere from cities to villages. It has become easy to get these drugs.  

Over the last five years, several hallucinogenic drugs have been caught inside the country. This was revealed in reports of a drug bust. There is phenethylamine (resembles cocaine), LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), dimethyltryptamine or DMT, magic mushrooms, khat (leaves of a plant native to Ethiopian highlands), ‘kush’, Ecstac’, hemp and molly, among them.

Professor of criminology and police science at Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University, Omar Faruk told Prothom Alo that the main cause behind the inflow of drug inside the country is that the agencies responsible for controlling drugs aren’t performing their duties properly.

He also believes that the Department of Narcotics Control doesn’t have the capacity to control narcotics. Agencies in charge of controlling drugs have to fulfill their duties first. Besides, there is need for public awareness in this regard.

Number of users in the country

The Department of Narcotics Control does not have the data on the current number of drug abuser in the country. Nor have any surveys been conducted on behalf of any government agencies in this regard recently.

The national institute of mental health however ran a survey ion this issue from July of 2017 to June of 2018.  According to that survey, the number of drug addicts in the country is around 3.6 million (36 lakh). But in narcotics control department’s opinion there are more than 7 million (70 lakh) drug addicts here.

Deputy director (preventive education) of DNC Majurul Islam told Prothom Alo that despite there hasn’t been any recent surveys, he believes the number of drug abusers in the country is on the rise.

People of all ages have to be informed about the bad effects of drugs. Especially the students of school, college and university have to be made aware of this. Guardians have to keep an eye constantly on issues like who are their children mingling with or what are they up to, he added.