Teen Drug Use & Fatality – A “Discounted” Reality


Growing percentage of teenagers getting addicted to drugs in India.The article will assist parents  to notice the possible warning signs of a drug problem in their children.

According to studies conducted in the past few years, children as young as 13 and 14 are regular users of drugs.In Punjab nearly 75% of its youth are addicted to drugs, that’s 3 out of every 4 children.

Although we don’t have conclusive figures on the number of users in cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, the figures can be estimated to be the same if not higher in some of these cities.

Dr. Vihan Sanyal, a psychotherapist in Mumbai said “The use and abuse of recreational drugs amongst the youth are high in Mumbai. It is not only the wealthy suburbs of the city who have the maximum number of users; it is spread all over our city. One just needs to ask my colleagues working across the city as to how many clients they see a week who frequently use drugs and I am sure that you will find the number being rather high. Many teenagers do not receive the help they require in time, which leads to them committing suicide. India has one of the highest drug related suicides (in the teenage population) globally. Many young adults do not seek help from a professional because of the fear of being labeled or judged by society. This needs to change. Our country is in desperate need well equipped rehabilitation centers. In the current scenario, there are more people requiring rehabilitation than we have centers available in India. ”


The real cause of use of drugs and its addiction is not always clear. We do, however, have a few common factors where the risk factor rises for teens.

These factors are:

· Genetic Predisposition

· Gender – Males are known to be more likely to use drugs than females

· Abusive parents or lack of parental involvement

· Traumatic Events – (victim of physical abuse as a child, victim of bullying, separation of parents, Break up of a relationship, Death of a love one).

· Environment –( Association of friends, family members, community members, exposure level)

· Easy Availability and access

· Mental Illness


The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for our reasoning ability is not fully developed until the age of 25. Hence, teens are typically high on emotions, are drawn to excitement, to quick gratification and reward without being concerned about the consequences for their actions. Rapid hormonal changes often drive teens towards risky behavior.

Young brains are more prone to damage. Use of drugs and alcohol can result in long term, harmful and irreversible damage to their brains and to their overall health.

Dr.Sanyal explains, “The way a teenager thinks, feels and behaves is controlled my nerve cells in his/her brain. Nerve cells communicate with each other through chemical messengers known as Neuro-Transmitters. One such Nero-chemical is known as Dopamine. More dopamine in a brain results in feelings of love and of happiness. Certain drugs increase dopamine and induce euphoric feelings in the user. The user of the drug starts to enjoy these feelings of “high” and starts to crave for the substance, this is where dependency starts. Soon the teenager becomes addicted to the substance.”


Possible warning signs of a drug problem in teens may include:

1. Non participation in family activities

2. Spending more time alone in the room and especially toilet

3. Frequently asking for money, even stealing money

4. Rebellious or aggressive behaviour

5. Change in appearance and in self care

6. Keeping secrets and lying about outings

7. Constant dazed, confused look, speech becomes faster or slower

8. The youngster becomes lazy and or hyperactive

9. Sudden rise in complaints about attendance and/or behaviour from school

10. Sudden drop in interest in studies and drop in grades

Offering advice to parents, Dr.Sanyal said, “If you have a child who is in his/her teens, please be vigilant at all times about their activities. Many parents discount the idea of their child ever getting involved with drugs. This is the worst mistake any parent can make. Observe changes in behaviour and in their likes and dislikes. Be an “aware” parent. Become your children’s first point of counsel. Don’t worry about what your friends and relatives are likely to think, seek professional help when required. Therapy can work wonders for children. Timely intervention is extremely important.”


“It is important to know the reasons behind the addiction, successfully diagnose and treat the underlining issues which may have led the client to resort to drugs. There are many modalities a trained psychotherapist can use to help a client with an addiction problem. CBT is one such approach. I like to use a combination of CBT and MNLP techniques to help clients to deal with drug addiction. NLP Hypnotic suggestions are useful here to restrict cravings and bring about positive behavioral changes in the individual. Therapists need to be fully aware of the severity and complexity of each case and ensure that the client receives the best possible treatment as early as possible. A combination of medication and therapy is often advised in cases of chronic addiction.”

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