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INDIA: Close to 800 Youth Participate in Marathon Event to Highlight Substance Abuse Awareness

(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Anbu Illam in Tiruchy, a city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, held a race at the end of the summer to highlight awareness of substance abuse among youth in India. Close to 800 youth from the local athletic club, colleges, schools and institutions in the city and volunteers took part in the 4.8 km run. The event also featured a street play on the harmful impact of substance abuse on the family and society. The play was created by social work students from Bharathiyar University and performed by Don Bosco Anbu Illam boys.

Throughout the event, Salesian missionaries were able to highlight their comprehensive prevention and control program held in schools and in the community helping to prevent risky behaviors. Salesian staff work with youth who are addicted to drugs. Treatments in the program often include physical and psychiatric consultations and medication, de-addiction counseling, education, Pranic healing, laughter therapy and methods of neuro-linguistic programming. Youth and families are also connected to 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to assist with ongoing sobriety.

“Salesian missionaries have very important work to do that goes above and beyond classroom teaching,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the international Salesians of Don Bosco. “Substance abuse can affect a child’s ability to learn as well as their behavior in and out of the classroom. We have an important role to play in helping to identify substance abuse while ensuring that children and their families have access to the proper care to overcome addiction.”

According to the World Bank, India is home to 25 percent of the world’s poor and more than 30 percent of the country’s population lives in poverty. While progress has been significant and the number of out-of-school children has been reduced from 25 million to 8 million in the past eight years, India continues to have the largest number of child laborers in the world. In addition, an estimated 10 million children live on the streets facing the daily horrors of rampant exploitation, forced labor, widespread substance abuse and physical violence. Many poor youth see little opportunity or hope for a better life.

India has a growing substance abuse problem, particularly among at-risk youth. While the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that there is significant difficulty in estimating drug usage and addiction rates in the country due to poor bureaucratic processes and census reporting, there is an overall increase in the rate of illicit drug use. Reported numbers indicate more than 3 million drug addicts in India.

Drug addiction is a major problem for many families and communities in the country. A lack of appropriate available care is a challenge and addicts are often left to be treated by their families at great financial cost. India also has 2.4 million people infected with HIV/AIDS, a disease of particular concern for intravenous drug users which make up 10 percent of the affected groups.

The WHO notes there is an increase in heroin use in India, including among children as young as 13. There are 1 million registered heroin addicts in the country but treatment programs suggest that number may instead be as high as 5 million.

Salesian missionaries across India who are providing education and social development services to poor youth and their families are taking preventative measures to address the issue of substance abuse among youth.

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SOURCES:

ANS – India – Marathon for promoting prevention of Substance Abuse among the Young

World Health Organization – Substance Abuse

Photo courtesy ANS

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