10 months ago

Saving street kids from 'soft drugs'

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The view of a teenage boy helping his middle-aged father in a physically hard work stands in stark contrast with another showing a group of them sitting in a circle at a deserted place in Dhaka. The boys assembled in a group are sniffing glue from a polythene bag. The adhesive, available at hardware shops, and with shoe-menders, is an intoxicant. As the glue-sniffing boys put it, the smell of the glue kept in a hollow airtight polythene bag makes them feel high. At the same time, it keeps them without hunger for a long time. The teenagers aged 10-15 years belong to the class of street-based homeless kids. Most of them have no place to sleep at night. Many of them are found asleep on footpath benches, road islands, rail stations or launch terminals. Throughout the day, they roam the city streets aimlessly, at times begging, or gossiping on a less crowded footbridge. Many are found dozing at unlikely places.

After managing the required money, a few of them buy together a 'pot' of `dundee'. They utilise it after dusk to keep the pangs of hunger away. Glue-sniffing has reached an alarming level after the adolescent boys, and a few girls, became hooked on the substance. It has been over 10 years when the new drug menace overtook the Dhaka street children. The problem with the apparently mild addiction is it eventually becomes a step to graduate into the world of psychedelic and hard drugs.  This kind of dope-taking was not long ago a common practice among both the upper and lower class urban youths. The addiction to narcotics begins normally with the low-dose synthetic drugs. The wayward teenagers, street children in particular, take to this dope-taking first as a fun and pastime before they get addicted to abusing stronger substances. Producing hallucinogenic effects, they belong to the amphetamine group of synthetic drugs. Appallingly, many a teenager mildly addicted to cannabis in Dhaka and the country's other urban areas, end up being hardcore addicts.

The most terrible aspect of drug addiction among floating teenagers is they remain vulnerable to becoming chronic addicts in the future. To meet the expenses of collecting specific drugs, many of them become desperate enough to sell their blood at blood banks. It leads to premature withering of many promising lives. On the other hand, a section of desperate young addicts turn to violent methods like mugging and other crimes to procure the money for collecting drugs. Few can predict that these kids won't grow into hardened criminals in the near future.   

Of late, the agency concerned of the government has taken a tough stance on the menace of glue-sniffing, seemingly the initial stage of entry to the multi-step world of drug abuse. It's encouraging to learn that the addicted teenagers have been taking treatment at the indoor department of the government rehabilitation centre, under the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), since 2016. But given the fast expanding size of the capital, it might prove a daunting task to keep track of the groups engaged in the addiction of glue-sniffing. In order to make the anti-'dundee' campaign a success, concerted efforts of all related agencies are an imperative. The most critical roles are expected to be played by the two Dhaka City Corporations and their volunteers. Moreover, anti-drug social activists and child rights groups ought to play an active role in the fight against child drug abuse. As the scourge involves children, the problem warrants to be dealt with sensitively.

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