Like in almost any other country, addiction to one or another narcotic substance has been in practice in Bengal region since the ancient times. The fact is reflected in the numerous popular tales in circulation in today's Bangladesh as well. In the modern times Bengalee authors, while portraying the picture of rural society, could not gloss over the subject. Thus in the fictions of the late 19th and 20th century writers, both the affluent people and pariahs addicted to opium and cannabis emerge as a part of the social scenario. That they eventually occupied a place in the rural milieu had been accepted, though grudgingly, by the mainstream population. Thus elderly zemindars taking opium reclining on a canvas deck chair in their half-lit veranda in the evening, and later beginning to doze, became familiar scenes. Their being hooked on opium was no secret, nor were the good-for-nothing bohemians taking cannabis along with the fellow addicts. In the past, the average village in Bangladesh would traditionally have a madcap, a few petty thieves --- and a handful of 'ganjakhors' (cannabis addicts). In spite of the presence of these elements, those were the good old days. Being part of those halcyon times, the addicts also used to be considered mostly harmless. They remained confined to their own worlds which would maintain a careful distance from the mainstream life. In fact, a tiny segment in all societies is found hooked on narcotics. It has been witnessed since the earliest of civilisations. Problem arises when addiction afflicts the larger sections of society. This was what found in the pre-revolution in China.
The diabolic force with which drug addiction struck the Bangladesh society in the recent times was beyond the farthest corner of thoughts of many. However, a few people going haywire were accepted as a normal social feature. Those elements were left to themselves. They, too, hardly found reasons for disturbing social peace. In such an environment, even the smarter and reputedly prophetic social thinkers could not foresee the present extent of destructions to be wrought by drug addiction in this land. If the 19th century authors had the faintest idea of this ominous development, they would have given a second thought to their depiction of addicts. A moderate-nature nation opposed to people with a penchant for extremities, this nation was not supposed to get hooked on narcotics on a large scale. The cases of addicts encountered in society in the past can be defined as isolated. They hardly represented the general masses. A people disposed towards letting their imagination take utopian flights and engaging in aesthetic exercises cannot be expected to remain confined to the abyss of drugs. Despite the Australoid ethnic group's being vulnerable to getting hooked on narcotics, the inhabitants of Bengal followed a different course of traits. It had a lot to do with the rain and humidity dominant climate of this part of the sub-continent. Moreover, while evolving on the land mass of 'Banga', they largely inherited the features of a lot of other races which invaded the delta. The race of Bengalees which thus came into being displayed their inclination more towards the spontaneously blithe mind than the artificial euphoria created by narcotics. Thanks to the Bengalees' centuries-old socio-cultural evolution amid rich and distinctive folklores, they had little room for turning to the other outlets of entertainment. A national entity thus developed cannot be expected to be on the harm's way anytime in the future. To the consternation of many, this was what happened in the early part of the 21st century. A society keeping itself free of the stranglehold of hard drugs was found eventually being sucked into whirlpool of addiction. As time wore on, the vortex virtually appeared inescapable.
The wide-scale drug abuse among the youths today and its feared fallout is blamed on a section of elements having no scruple. Driven by narrow mundane interests, these people helped scores of channels open up making way for alien drugs enter the country. Youths were their main target. In the late 20th and early 21st century, the younger generations were was different from their likes in the past. They were already a seasoned lot, a breed accustomed to the ever-extraordinary fetishes of modernity. Drug addiction was touted as being an added token of status-exclusivity and seamless euphoria. That all this was transient did finally dawn on the gullible sections, but it was too late. The drug scourge had been festering in the country for over three decades. These involved mainly synthetic drugs of varied types. In the last one-and-half decades it struck the country with vengeance, with the substances ranging from heroin, phensedyl and, lately, yaba --- a variant of methamphetamine. The days of amateurish and stealthy indulgence in narcotic objects had been long over. Thanks to the accessibility to the widely available drugs, the scourge did not take long to emerge a deep-seated national malady. The drug syndicates, fledgling only a few years ago, continued to become powerful, and eventually unassailable.
Apart from the whole Bangladesh becoming a convenient target, the bordering areas of the neighbouring Myanmar now add to the ferocity of the whole episode. The land routes in the hilly, forest-covered Cox's Bazar area and those across a bordering river and along the nearby coast are now considered drug havens. Many might feel tempted to liken the clandestine drug trade across Bangladesh-Myanmar border to that in Latin America's Colombia. When it comes to organisational strength and invincibility, Bangladesh is nowhere near Colombia. But in terms of the cartel-based trade's damaging impact on a country, Bangladesh stands out for bearing the smuggling activity's fallout, and it is far more severe. Colombia's cocaine products end up mainly in the far-off US mainland. In comparison, Myanmar's yaba is chiefly destined for the addicts and vulnerable youths in Bangladesh. In 2018, the country finds itself engaged in an all-out battle and social purge aimed at uprooting the drug menace. Such an action has been long overdue. People affected by drug abuse due to its socio-familial impact have welcomed the operation. But given the alleged lack of cooperation among the authorities concerned and other shortcomings, the ongoing campaign runs the risk of deviating from the objective. At times overkill and triumphalism stand in the way of these vital anti-crime campaigns' success. Given the great social cost which the nation was made to pay in the nearly three decades due to drug abuse, it cannot afford these types of sloppiness.
The benign nature of narcotics use among social dropouts in this country is now extinct for good. A demonic form of addiction has taken its place. That menaces like drug addiction can become a part of the socio-cultural realities of Bangladesh seemed quite unlikely not long ago. But in a fast globalising world few trends remain confined to a region for long. When it comes to the havoc wrought by drug abuse, all countries, irrespective of social achievements, appear equally vulnerable. Needless to say, the weaker nations are more prone to following the murky trail left by substance abuse --- which is a combination of sufferings, repentance and untimely deaths. The youths, the most vital segment of population, in these countries turn so powerless that they do not feel like resisting being ostracised socially. To avert this situation, the drug problem, as viewed by social activists, should be addressed in a way which is unique to it. Before swinging into action, the delicate problem warrants in-depth appraisal with the associated realities and the backdrop picture in view. The drug euphoria finally opens the floodgates of nightmares. These days addiction is no longer taking recourse to a short trip to a fantasised land like seen in the past. The euphoria is a virtual stepping into self-ruination.
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