Children in Karnataka Prone to Alcohol, Tobacco Abuse - The New Indian Express

Children in Karnataka Prone to Alcohol, Tobacco Abuse

Published: 14th April 2014 07:22 AM

Last Updated: 14th April 2014 09:06 AM

Alcohol and tobacco are the most common psychoactive substances that children in Karnataka prefer to use, a national survey on substance-using children has revealed.

The study, which covered children aged between 5 and 18, found that 88.9 per cent of the kids surveyed in Karnataka consumed alcohol. The state accounted for 81.1 per cent in tobacco use, 24.4 per cent in cannabis, 27.8 per cent in inhalants and 2.2 per cent in heroin.

Karnataka topped the country in alcohol consumption among the surveyed group, followed by Andhra Pradesh (84.7 per cent), Haryana (80 per cent) and Chandigarh (79.3 per cent). In tobacco use, Karnataka ranks only after Tamil Nadu (86.3 per cent) among south Indian states, and 11th in the country.

The findings were published in a 2013 study by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) called ‘Assessment of Pattern and Profile of Substance Use Among Children in India’. It was conducted on 4,024 substance-using children in the average age of 13 to 17 in 27 states and two Union Territories.

The World Health Organisation defines substance abuse as “harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs.”

Contrary to the widespread view that street children and those without homes are exposed and addicted to substance abuse, the study revealed that tobacco and alcohol abuse was higher among children living with their families.

It found that of the total sample, an alarming 71.8 per cent of kids staying at home had used alcohol at some point in their life whereas only 53.3 per cent among those living on the street had consumed it. In the last one year, alcohol use was 68.2 per cent among those who stayed at home as opposed to 41.9 per cent among street children.

Explaining this trend, P S George, executive director of BOSCO Yuvodaya, where many street children are rehabilitated, said a fundamental difference was in the reason why street children and home-based children take to addiction.

“For street children, doing drugs, cigarettes and alcohol are part of their coping mechanism as being homeless is a struggle. Whereas, a child living with a family does it mainly due to pressures, tension and easy availability of pocket money,” he said. 

While gaining access to illegal substances is easier for street children, the extent of addiction is higher among kids living at home as poverty leaves street children with little freedom to consume drugs or alcohol whenever they wish. “There is always a restriction on the amount homeless children purchase — be it alcohol, drugs or tobacco — because they cannot afford too much of anything. So, there is a far lesser chance that it will develop into a prolonged habit which is the case with home-based children as, apart from money, there is also the influence of peers, friends and parents neglecting the kids and media,” he said. “ These habits are a greater danger to family-based kids,” George added.

Among street children countrywide, while tobacco use was reported by 50 to 75 per cent, alcohol was being consumed by 25 to 50 per cent, cannabis by 15 to 25 per cent and inhalants by 20 to 50 per cent of the 18 million street children in the country. Further, tobacco happened to be the most popular, and pharmaceutical sedatives the least popular substances abused by girls, who formed about 4.2 per cent of the study sample.

Inhalant Use Higher Among Street Kids

Use of inhalants, on the other hand, had a different usage pattern with more street children (45.9 per cent) using it than those living at home (26.3 per cent). Further, “Onset of substance use was one to one-and-a-half years earlier among street children compared to those living at home. Among the out-of-school children, the average number of days of use for all kinds of substances was higher compared to school-going children,” the report said. “A beer bottle that costs about `90 is less affordable for a street kid than a bottle of correction fluid that costs just `15, which will keep him going for a couple of days,” George added.

Parental Supervision a Must

Dr Prathima Murthy, professor of psychiatry at the Centre for Deaddiction Medicine at the NIMHANS, said more involvement by parents in their children’s lives can solve much of the problem. She insisted that parents must be good role models and constantly monitor their children, especially high-risk children like those who often face academic difficulties, and find it hard to control anger.

“Kids can gain access to substances irrespective of where they are. Parental supervision is a must. They need to understand that kids are vulnerable, impulsive and easily influenced,” she said. Dr Murthy said when parents do not spend enough time with their kids and aren’t aware of their activities, it could lead to substance abuse. “When parents themselves are into alcohol and tobacco, it tends to influence the kids also to try them,” she added.

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