INDIA: Don Bosco Research Center Releases New Report on School-Age Substance Abuse
(MissionNewswire) The Don Bosco Research Center in Mumbai, India, under the leadership of Father Ajoy Fernandes, concluded a three-year long research study on substance abuse among school children. The study’s findings have been published in a teacher’s manual “Preventing Substance Abuse Among School Children.” The 104-page report provides in-depth data on the drug habits among youth in India today.
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.
Since 2015, the Don Bosco Research Center has been conducting training programs on combating drug abuse at schools in 10 Indian cities, namely Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi and Chandigarh.
“In some places, administrations are not even attentive to the issue,” says Fr. Fernandes. “In a couple of cities, when we were tried to get in touch with schools, they were not even willing to accept the idea because they felt if we do a training program like this it will seem that there are drug addicts in the school, and it will bring a bad name to the school. This has not really hit the administration, perhaps they have not found severe enough instances for them to awaken to the reality that this is an issue.”
Salesian missionaries facilitate the educational programs and the recent research on the issue to help school administrators and teachers understand issues related to substance abuse among school children and to prevent such occurrences. The research report highlighted vulnerability factors that could push a child into experimenting with substances. These factors are on an individual level with attention and learning disabilities and low self-esteem, and at a family level with conflict-ridden families. Academic failure at school plays a factor as does the easy accessibility of these harmful substances.
Several interventions have also been highlighted that would help steer a healthy, happy child away from substance abuse including developing good communication skills, trusting relationships with adults and social skills so youth can access the support they need to resist pressure. The new report aims to help offer school staff and parents pertinent insights and tips to identify, accompany and assist those experimenting with substances, as well as provide providing guidelines to safeguard others.
“Parents as well as teachers may not be focused on substance abuse when so many other issues are on the forefront like academics,” says Fr. Fernandes. “Parents and teachers might not be aware of the indicators. Since they are not aware, youth can develop a real problem with substance abuse before anyone notices and so the idea is to be attentive to indicators from the start.”
World Health Organization – Substance Abuse