Year after year, I see young lives wasted away in smoke, and it’s maddening to witness an entirely preventable disease consume so many people and their families. Drug addiction is an insidious disease. It’s targeting younger and younger people with every passing day and the unfortunate reality of our society today is that the first time an adolescent takes a drug is not from some stranger trying to harm him or her, but rather by their dearest friends. Today, 26th June marks the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, a determined global effort to move towards a drug free society and the theme for this year is “Drug Use Disorders are Preventable and Treatable”. Looking at the problem of drug use then, we need to look at both, reducing the number of first time users and helping those grappling with an addiction problem. Drug trafficking, of course, is an ongoing struggle for our law enforcement agencies worldwide and we do need to move towards stronger legislatures and stricter action. But policy and legalities aside, there is a great deal that each of us as members of society can do to curb this menace. Awareness regarding the problems associated with drug use holds the key to its prevention. In our current scenario, children are getting their information about drugs from their seniors in school and the media and internet – and it’s here where clichés such as ‘drugs and rock n roll’ get propagated. It’s here that children learn that it’s not only acceptable but in fact, cool, to indulge in substances. It’s here that they falsely come to believe that smoking marijuana is ‘healthier than regular cigarettes’. No teenager or adult takes their first puff or sniff thinking they’re going to turn into an addict, and this is where the problem of drugs becomes so sinister. So called “soft drugs” become gateways for unsuspecting people to enter into the world of drugs and despite what most of us believe, there are a variety of drugs that, by way of their composition, can lead to an addiction by just a a one-time use. Talking about drugs is not the same as encouraging it, and as responsible adults, we need to talk about the problem of drugs. Teenagers need to get the correct and complete information about substance use from a trusted and reliable adult – be it a parent or a teacher. Myths systematically propagated to entice students need to be addressed and debunked before it’s too late. Media houses and celebrities need to become aware of their influence on young minds and take a more sensitive approach to the portrayal of substances in public. Most of all, we all must remember that our kids learn from watching our actions – and so every time you light up a cigarette, have a drink, or consume any other illicit substances – know that you’re telling those around you that it’s ok for them to do the same.

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