The first time I took drugs was after my XII boards, a year back. My friends took me to a place they knew, where drugs are sold cheap and in abundance. The first thing I ever smoked was weed, which I bought at Rs 50 per packet. Later, I moved on to smoking hash which was much more expensive. I was told that these substances are grass based and, in fact, herbs used to cure diseases. But because they induce a certain level of intoxication, they can’t be prescribed.
As admission bells ring in DU, applicants toy with the idea of experimenting with substance abuse. “Depends on who we hang out with. We’re okay with other people getting into such habits but would try not to give in to peer pressure ourselves,” said Shruti and Anusha.
While citizens below the age of 25 are legally forbidden alcohol consumption in New Delhi, several students at DU pay no heed to the law. Umang, another aspirant, says, “If you are allowed to vote, you are capable of making decisions for yourself.” Ankita, an occasional drinker, said that many people forego the habit by the time they are 25. “The regulation does not make sense,” she added. 60% respondents demand a decrease in the legal age for drinking, most of them suggesting 21 years as the ideal age.
Inexpensive drugs like hash, marijuana and acid are another common form of intoxication for students. When asked about drug use, most DU applicants were unnerved. “It is okay to experiment, but one should be very careful not to go to extremes,” said Umang. Rohit (name changed), a drug user, said: “It’s sad when I see people at the age of 15-16 getting into drugs. The laws are clear but implementation is poor. A person looking for drugs would be able to find them easily in a day at very reasonable prices.”
Dr Rajni Sahni, a psychology professor at DU, counts peer pressure as one of the most common causes for addiction. She said that a person who is low on self-esteem looks towards what society, specifically his/her peers, approve of. “This is especially prevalent among adolescents who lack confidence,” she emphasized. “Experimentation, even at the seemingly harmless level, is detrimental as the main motivation is to get a high. If there is no one to guide you to a positive way of getting a high, like an achievement or doing a good deed, then you are bound to get addicted.”
Rehabilitation centers offer processes of medical and psychotherapeutic treatment for dependency on substance abuse. Hope Trust (Hyderabad), Muktangan (Pune) and Santulan (New Delhi) are some renowned de-addiction centers in India. Sadly, none of the respondents were aware of the location, or even the name, of any of the rehabs in the country. Dr Sahni suggested establishment of de-addiction centers in the campus, not only for students but also for teaching and non-teaching staff. She also recommended spreading the message and sensitizing students through street plays, films and talk shows.
- DU aspirants willing to experiment with drugs: 30%
- Zones for smokers on campus: 55%
- Legal age for drinking should be decreased: 60%
- Ideal age for legally drinking: 21 yrs
Aakriti Bajaj (3rd year student of Mass Media and Mass Communication at IP College, University of Delhi)
Neha Gupta (2nd year student of Journalism at Kamla Nehru College, University of Delhi)