Substance abuse among children on a ‘high’
By Sharadha Kalyanam | ENS | Published: 08th April 2013 07:54 AM |
Shankar, a rag picker, sifts through the garbage dumped on the street by Bangaloreans. Every time he bends to browse through the dirt, he holds a cloth against his mouth and takes a deep breath. It is the only way he can get on with his work. This might be a common scene in Bangalore, but a lot of people do not know that Shankar is most likely inhaling petrol, correction fluid, shoe polish or any other solvent.
At least five out of every 100 street children in Bangalore are addicted to substances such as whitener, glue, and other abused solutions that are easily available in stationery shops and provision stores.
While the Bangalore city police seem to have not taken sufficient measures to check stores that sell correction fluid, some even at cheaper rates, children, especially the homeless and working, are increasingly getting addicted to it, non-government organisations (NGOs) working closely with these children said.
Volunteers from the Child Rights Trust and Bosco found that K R Market, Majestic, Shivaji Nagar, Lingarajapuram, Fraser Town, Banasawadi, Hennur Cross, Mysore Road, Magadi Road and railway and bus stations are the prime areas of the city where whitener abuse is rampant mainly due to a high population of migrant child workers.
According to information available, Bangalore has roughly 1,00,000 street children. He said that an estimated 5,000 children could easily be counted as severe addicts.
According to data from Sathi, an NGO, around 4,000 children arrive on Majestic and Yeshwantpur railway stations every year.
Of these, about 300 are addicted to whitener solution, typewriter solution, anti-puncture liquid, gutkha, beedi and cigarettes and cannabis. “Of these, more than 100 children are heavily addicted. Some are even addicted to ganja and alcohol,” Pramod Kulkarni of Sathi said.
“Platform life is major source of harmful drugs and other intoxicants. Beggars, taxi drivers, Sadhus, and brokers generally sell these substances to kids. Older children form networks and provide access to younger children and newcomers,” he an NGO, said.
Whitener, which exerts its effects due to the organic solvent trichloroethane, is available to children even at `20 per bottle. A majority of the street children inhale solutions for temporary pleasure, euphoria and to ‘fit’ into their peer groups, it is said.
Nagasimha G Rao, Associate Director, Child Rights Trust, said many do it to forget hunger. “There are some kids who smear whitener on their clothes before they go to bed. The smell masks the feeling of hunger and gradually they get addicted to the smell and carry it on a handkerchief,” he said.
Addicts experience a ‘high’ for 5-10 hours depending on the quantity and intensity of the inhalation. When whitener solution is not available, they may also move on to using other intoxicant substances like petrol, glue, shoe polish, anti-puncture solution, diluters, thinners, nail-polish and nail polish removers.
Dr John Vijay Sagar, Associate Professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NIMHANS said a majority of child addicts treated at the institute came with conduct disorders and anti-social tendencies.
“Children aged between 15 and 17 years are the most sensitive group and need specific interventions,” said Dr John, who sees around five addicts each week.