Dhaka\'s reckless drug addicts
Just saying the ferocity of drug abuse has marked an alarming rise in the country is understatement. It has been so since long. Despite the apparently stringent anti-drug steps taken by the law-enforcement agencies, the invincibility of the drug syndicates keeps increasing with equal force. On occasions, the authorities apparently find themselves outwitted by the drug dealers and peddlers. To say that drug abuse in the country is under control is thus an opaque view of the reality. There are relieving interludes of success in anti-drug campaigns, but the menace returns with vengeance. Drug syndicates are never found exhausted in devising ingenious ways of smuggling drugs into the country. Perhaps to be at par with them, the drug abusers often view the whole country as an ideal land for getting supplies of narcotics. This ability to indulge in freewheeling drug-taking makes the addicts reckless, which itself is also a drug-related trait.
A horrifying recklessness, coupled with the vilest form of unconcern, leads to spectacles like the one in a photo published in this newspaper on February 12. The photo shows three teenagers, including a girl, allegedly glue-sniffing on a busy road island in broad daylight. Two others are seen covered in a single sheet of cloth. A stray dog sleeps beside them.
Sights like this are not now uncommon in Dhaka. One may come across people lying motionless on a sidewalk under the head-to-toes cover of a dirty, tattered blanket. After a loud bang or the screeching horns of passing vehicles, they stir a little and shift the cover from over the face to look for the source of the noise. The sidewalks are filled with pedestrians, with roads gridlocked with traffic. In broad daylight, the persons turn out to be dishevelled youths or middle-aged men. Casting their fatigued look around for some moments, they get back to their earlier lying posture. Their faces go out of focus again. Anybody noticing them from a distance would find them deep asleep for hours on end. A shabbily clothed woman might appear from nowhere to wake them up. After a while, they are found engaged in preparing something by using cigarettes, a candle, a piece of aluminium foil etc. They take puffs from stuffed cigarettes. In moments they are high. They start talking languidly. In another scene, these substance abusers are found drinking something from coloured small bottles; or getting injected by each other. Ask a nearby cigarette or betel leaf vendor about those people. He will brusquely dismiss them, muttering " … Oh, those heronchees!" What he wants to say is these damned people are taking heroin or getting injected with pethidine or some other drugs.
People acquainted with the cities in foreign countries might become stunned at this daredevil nature of drug abuse. Scenes like this are found in Dhaka's public parks, thinly peopled footpaths, or deserted passenger shades. Not long ago, drug-taking was confined to spoiled youths. They would get their 'kicks' from cannabis smoke, codeine-containing cough syrup, morphine and pethidine injections, etc. Many would also get hooked on heroin -- an opium derivative. Of late, synthetic tablets like 'yaba', made of methamphetamine, rule the roost in the urban youths' ghettos. Thanks to their mostly middle-class background, they maintain a semblance of privacy; although it cannot save them from their eventual doom. The fast rising prevalence of drug-taking by vagabonds in the open has already emerged as a dreadful sight. Besides enforcement of relevant laws, forced rehabilitation and advocacy can go a long way towards curbing the menace. Apart from the scenes' being atrocious, they considerably add to Dhaka's notoriety as one of the most awful cities in the world. The unpalatable truth, however, is the country has yet to effectively shake off the evil spell of drugs.