KARACHI: There has been a recent surge in illicit drug and tobacco use at educational institutions across the country, affecting students, administrative staff and even the faculty members.

The situation is driven by lawlessness in society, making access to illicit substances too easy and factors such as growing poverty and lack of employment opportunities.

These points were highlighted at a national conference – Substance Use Prevention and Treatment; Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice – organised at Karachi University (KU) by its Institute of Clinical Psychology, in collaboration with Local Challenge Fund (LCF), Higher Education Commission.

Speaking at the inaugural session, caretaker Sindh Health Minister Dr Saad Khalid Niaz expressed his concern over the growing use of illicit drugs on campuses and said that information gathered from different sources had revealed that drugs were being supplied through the staff of educational institutions and that the government had started tracking those elements.

Minister claims students are being supplied illicit substances by staff of educational institutes

“This is something that attracts our attention. But, what doesn’t arouse our concern are other addictive substances, like gutka. The society has accepted it as a normal thing,” the minister regretted.

The minister was of the opinion that since it seemed difficult to completely root out the network of drug supplies and access to illicit substances had become alarmingly easy through the internet, the focus should preferably be shifted to other driving forces such as the users and the factors forcing someone to take refuge in drugs.

“We need to know who is using drugs and why. There are many societal reasons and the lack of rehabilitation centres is also one, causing a rise in drug addicts,” he said, adding that vape and electronic cigarettes were more dangerous than smoking cigarettes.

Dr Niaz regretted religious and moral decadence in society and said that religious scholars were not playing their due role in creating awareness on drug prevention.

“In our society we believe lying is an art, and people tell lies with pride and those who do not lie are considered stupid. Government staff pay bribes to take leave, even for performing Umrah. We should be ashamed to call ourselves an Islamic society.”

In his remarks, Regional Directorate Commander, Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF-Sindh) Brigadier Umar Farooq mentioned that the agency had seized six metric tons of drugs in 2023, having an estimated value of $81 million in the international market, and arrested 252 traffickers this year.

Prof Imran Bashir Chaudhry, Head of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Dr Ziauddin Medical University and Pakistan Institute of Living and Learning (PILL) informed the audience that there were around 8.9m substance users in Pakistan, currently ranking as the 10th high-burden countries for tobacco use.

The institute, he said, had developed a comprehensive action plan for prevention of substance misuse in Sindh in collaboration with the Sindh Task Force on Drug Demand Reduction and Substance Misuse and other stakeholders.

In his address, Vice Chancellor of Karakoram International University, Gilgit-Baltistan Prof Syed Attaullah Shah mentioned that drug addiction and tobacco abuse by youth, including students, staff, and faculty members at higher educational institutes had become a major challenge at universities.

“Some of the most common causes include social and economic pressures, academic pressure, parental expectations, lack of appropriate counseling, and easy access to drugs in educational institutions,” he said, adding that a large majority of students started using drugs in their late teens.

According to him, the major illicit substances consumed by the youth include alcohol, tobacco, heroin, cannabis, methamphetamine, amphetamine-type stimulus, cocaine, combination drugs and tranquilizers (prescription drugs).

Prof Muhammad Iqbal Afridi pointed out that the problem of substance abuse was a major issue worldwide. Addiction was a chronic relapsing disorder like diabetes/hypertension. Drug abusers, he said, were suffering from psychological illnesses and the society needed to change its attitude towards drug abusers in order to achieve proper treatment goals.

“Fifty per cent of drug addicts have comorbid psychiatric disorders i.e. depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. A multi-disciplinary approach is required to address the huge problem of substance use.”

The speakers included chairman of the Sindh Mental Health Authority Dr Karim Ahmed Khawaja, KU Vice Chancellor Prof Khalid M. Iraqi, former head of the radiology department at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre Prof Tariq Mehmood and Vice Chancellor FATA University Prof Muhammad Jahanzeb Khan.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Dangerous law
Updated 17 May, 2024

Dangerous law

It must remember that the same law can be weaponised against it one day, just as Peca was when the PTI took power.
Uncalled for pressure
17 May, 2024

Uncalled for pressure

THE recent press conferences by Senators Faisal Vawda and Talal Chaudhry, where they demanded evidence from judges...
KP tussle
17 May, 2024

KP tussle

THE growing war of words between KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur and Governor Faisal Karim Kundi is affecting...
Dubai properties
Updated 16 May, 2024

Dubai properties

It is hoped that any investigation that is conducted will be fair and that no wrongdoing will be excused.
In good faith
16 May, 2024

In good faith

THE ‘P’ in PTI might as well stand for perplexing. After a constant yo-yoing around holding talks, the PTI has...
CTDs’ shortcomings
16 May, 2024

CTDs’ shortcomings

WHILE threats from terrorist groups need to be countered on the battlefield through military means, long-term ...