CHENNAI: High schoolers Sruthi K and Vignesh B have a fairly similar routine. After finishing school work, they attend a programme that helps them identify young substance abusers in their locality and offer help to break the addiction. For them, growing up in neighbourhoods like Vyasarpadi and Ennore, drugs have been a source of trouble plaguing several teenagers.
“There’s always a leader getting everyone into drug abuse and mostly, they turn out to be your immediate peers,” says Vignesh who has been a volunteer with Arunodhaya Centre for Street and Working Children for over five years. His training with the NGO has helped him identify those addicted to drugs, alcohol and other intoxicants and understand the changes these substances cause. “Physiological changes like slurred speech, need to eat or sleep a lot, dizziness and nausea along with behavioural changes are the immediate symptoms,” says Sruthi who has also been an anti-drug adolescent volunteer for many years now.
“With girls in our locality, it starts when they’re curious about what their brothers smoke or drink, they do it in secret. That’s how the abuse happens with many teenage girls,” says Sruthi.
Arunodhaya’s annual programme which focused on the theme ‘Adolescent Voice Against Drugs and Substance Abuse’ this year drew a lot of response from teachers, parents, students and others, who play a part in youth taking up drug and liquor addiction.
North Chennai student volunteers and their teachers shared some of the core reasons leading to abuse at a young age — neglect by teachers, violent or abusive family environments and easy access to drugs which puts the responsibility on the society.
The students had been trained on psychological, physiological and social skills and they were breifed on the importance of early intervention by parents and teachers on vulnerable kids. Nearly 522 homes in North Chennai and 32 schools from several zones in the city had been sensitised on the perils of drug abuse and the impact it can have on life.
Virgil D’Sami, executive director, Arunodhaya, said drugs were destroying many homes. “The habit is as good as a contagious disease as even if one child is affected, more are drawn into it,” she said.