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Maitreyee Boruah,TNN | Mar 10, 2014, 12.00 AM IST
Why does Karnataka have the most child alcohol addicts in the country?
A recent national study on substance abuse among children found that alcohol use in this group was reported to be the highest in Karnataka: 88.9%.
The report has reiterated what child rights activists have been saying about the alarming rise in substance abuse among urban and rural children.
The study — titled 'The Assessment of Pattern and Profile of Substance Use among Children in India' — was commissioned by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), the country's apex child rights organization, and conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, New Delhi.
Tobacco and alcohol use are higher among those living at home, compared to those living on the streets, states the report. "It's a concern for us as more youngsters are getting addicted to tobacco, alcohol and other recreational drugs. In today's changing social milieu, children have no role models. They think it's cool to smoke or drink. They don't realize that once they get addicted to a vice, it's difficult to get out of the habit," says M Kishore, psychiatrist.
But that's not the only problem, says Vasudev Sharma, executive director of the Child Rights Trust (CRT) and State Convener of the Karnataka Child Rights Observatory (KCRO). According to a survey done by the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM) — a Bangalore-based human rights non-governmental organization — only 120 of the city's 200 de-addiction centres are licensed, while the remaining are "money-making ventures that offer no therapeutic value at all". "Many rehabilitation centres that are not registered under The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, are flourishing on the outskirts of Bangalore. What is worrying is that these rehab centres don't have expert counsellors to deal with children who are victims of substance abuse. Moreover, these centres don't follow up on the health status of their patients once they leave their premises. Thus, there is a high relapse rate among addicts," says child rights activist Nagasimha G Rao.
Facts about the study…
First nation-wide study comprising school-going, out-of-school and street children
Covered 4,024 children from 135 cities and towns in India
Covered children between 5-18 years from rural and urban areas
Call for stringent measures against unlicensed centres
Vasudev adds, "The government must take stringent action against these illegal centres that make money in the name of rehabilitating children whose lives have been ruined by drugs and alcohol."
Awareness is the key
"We are planning several campaigns against substance abuse to reach out to children, parents and teachers. Various communities will be counselled to address the issue," says Umesh Aradhya, chairperson, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KCPCR).
Experts also recommend that all states take the issue of substance abuse seriously and work towards ending the menace. In the national study, Kushal Singh, chairperson of the NCPCR, says, "There should be proper action plans to curb the growing menace of substance abuse among children, apart from filling in gaps on exclusive and curative centres for children in the country."
Substance abuse rates among children
Andhra Pradesh 84.7%
Nagaland 95.8 %
Sikkim 93.1 %
Punjab 19.3 %
Jammu & Kashmir 13.3%