By resolution 42/112 of 7 December 1987, the United Nations General Assembly decided to observe 26 June as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking as an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse.
Human beings come in many different types of emotional responsibility levels—from extreme sublimity to extreme anger. Balance is struck when a person appears to be handling his various emotions with maturity, befitting his status. Of course, this is quite a feat, which can be achieved by anyone provided there is will to do so and even before that there is need to have awareness about one’s inner self and then honestly analyze one’s emotional state. Unless someone peeps within and discovers those feelings that cause irritation, only then can a cure be found. It is difficult to attain emotional stability but it is certainly not impossible. There is no age factor involved either. A child can display better emotional control compared to an adult when placed in similar situations. In other words some people may be gifted with this attribute whereas some may take years to learn so some may conquer emotions while some just surrender themselves. All said and done, emotions are integral to humans
What happens when humans are unable to cope with their emotions, when they are deprived from expressing their inner feelings, when they are stopped from venting out, when they do not have the ability to share or to let go or where they shy away from facing reality? For different people reality has different connotations. For some it may be a personal tragedy whereas for others it could be financial crunch or bankruptcy. Another group may be suffering from domestic violence while yet another could be harbouring wounds from a broken family. There may be students struggling with their academics or graduates looking for jobs. In short, reality can be extremely painful at times.
The majority of mankind is able to cope with reality in a number of ways that psychologists have broadly described under the categories of “fight” or “flight”. In the earlier instance, a person struggles to overcome problems associated with his malaise in a variety of ways popularly known as taking the bull by its horns, whereas in the latter instance, the most convenient way is employed which actually implies, looking away from the object of frustration.
In both these forms there can be many eventualities that a person may indulge in and one of them is escapism—a retreat into one’s own world of imagination that has no hue of reality. We all have our way of finding a sanctuary. This could be in the form of reading a book, painting, music, partying, going in isolation, travelling, working, and these days indulgence in social media etc. Apparently these are very benign activities that have little damaging effects and also physically involve the person in a particular process. They are also productive in nature as they increase knowledge, entertain and enhance the talents of an individual. On the other hand there are some forms of escapism that are highly noxious, addiction to psychoactive substances, being one of them. These could comprise everyday items, like cough syrups, betel leaf and nut, tobacco or glue, to very sophisticated ones, for e.g. alcohol, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), heroin, cocaine etc. in addition to indigenous products like hashish, bhang (cannabis) and opium.
We need to understand that the human brain is the central processing unit (CPU) with its own peculiar set-up and chemical composition that is naturally tuned to controlling our overall body mechanisms as well as our train of thought. Any tinkering with this system can cause malfunctioning or even a total shut-down as happens when a virus attacks the computer’s CPU. Similarly, psychoactive substances capture the central nervous system altering functions of the brain that cause temporary changes in one’s perception, mood, consciousness and behavior. In other words, they disrupt the normal pattern of a person. These drugs are prescribed by specialists and administered under strict supervision for certain medical conditions. If taken otherwise, it amounts to abuse of these substances.
Some people abuse drugs because of peer pressure or merely for excitement. They are just pleasure seekers involved in bad habits. For those with weaker nerves whose life is full of stress and tensions because of multiple reasons, it is very easy to get carried away by any incitement towards using these substances. This is their way to momentarily shut their eyes against their pain without realizing that when they gain consciousness, the pain would still be there and rather than dealing with it they go on escaping into the wilderness of their imagination. Unfortunately, this escape route is addictive and extremely harmful and results in poor health, social alienation, unemployment and can have serious financial repercussions. The withdrawal symptoms of many of these drugs are very pernicious causing the addict to go to any extent in order to get another dose.
At present, the attitude of the society is quite harsh towards addicts. No doubt, an addict in the family can be very menacing but one cannot write off one’s kin just because he maybe extra sensitive. Rehabilitation is one way out of this problem and more important than that is an attentive ear that is willing to absorb his balderdash and a soft heart which feels for the pain he is going through.
For those dealing with addicts there are some important things they must keep in mind. One, addiction cannot be overcome by sheer will power. Drugs can alter the brain chemistry well enough to render the strongest person helpless. Two, these changes can be reversed because addiction is a disease which can be treated. Three, addiction can be cured at any stage. Hitting rock bottom before any treatment can commence is just a myth. Four, cajoling by family members, friends and employers can convince an addict to change his habits for, the moment he becomes aware of it, he is eager to seek help. Five, getting an addict back on the track is a long drawn process that demands patience. Occasional bouts of relapses should not be discouraging but be taken as a sign of changing the method of treatment.
In the end, it must be emphasized that where a strong family system exists with the head of the family who is non-dictatorial yet ensures discipline, chances of children experimenting with drugs and becoming addicts are very low compared to a dysfunctional family. Children should be befriended and encouraged to speak their minds before parents rather than being snubbed on petty issues. Healthy family activities can provide ample room from escaping the usual rut without jeopardizing moral values. Where family bonds are endearing, it is difficult for outsiders to break in and create rifts. When the family is there to help getaway from stresses with its love and affection, why would a member look for hazardous ways to escape them?
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)