Listen First : Saving the youths of Manipur from Substance Abuse

Seram Neken *

Observance of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking at G M Hall :: 26 June 2016
Observance of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking at G M Hall on 26 June 2016 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

June 26 is being observed all over the globe as the International Day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking. This year, the theme of the global observance is 'Listen First', which stresses the importance of listening to the issues confronting the teenagers who are very often caught in the menace of substance abuse. The annual observance of such a day with its theme has more relevance in Manipur society, where majority of its young population indulge in abuses of one or the other substance thereby destructing their own physical and emotional existence.

Every year since 1988, the United Nations has been spearheading the worldwide observance on this day. In Manipur, where a considerable portion of the national young brigade has lost its energy, strength and power to drugs and psychotropic substances, there is strong relevance to organize such events on a mass scale.

From Zarda Pan, Kheini and Cigarettes to Ganja and Alcohols such as Beers, Whisky, local brews (branded as Sekmai, Andro, Phayeng etc); from cough syrups such as Phenshydyl, Corex, Epidex, Sericodine and bonolex to pain killer tablets like Proxyvon, Parvon Spas, Spasmo Proxyvon, Relipen and prozep to tranquilizers such as Diazepam, Valium, Nitrogen 10 (N10); from psychoactive substances such as Morphine, Poldrom, Mandrake, Hypogen to the infamous Heroin Number 4, drug abuse menace has almost succeeded in its attempted destruction of young physique and mindset of Manipuris.

Beginner abusers of Manipur have switched on to cheap and easily available substances such as Dendrite and correction fluids (Kores Eraz-ex) to enjoy self-satisfaction. As a new trend of the social ailment, a number of teenaged boys and girls have reportedly started abusing 'Ganja' at various outskirts of the town. The silent war on the young population calls for urgent attention of the parents who have to first listen to the young voices and understand them.

Substance abuse is the excessive, maladaptive or addictive use of drugs for non-medicinal purposes. It is also defined as an emotional and physical state characterized by a compulsion to take drugs on a constant basis in order to experience its mental effects. Drug abuse gives rise to dependence both physical and psychological. Dependence gives rise to mental, emotional, physical, social and economic instability. The effects of drug abuse on an individual form the basis for its cumulative effects on the society.

Drugs trade is considered as the third largest business in the world, next to petroleum and arms trade. Today, no part of the world is free from the curse of drug trafficking and addiction. Millions of drug addicts, all over the world, are leading miserable lives, between life and death. Drug addiction has caused immense human distress and the illegal production and distribution of drugs have spawned crime and violence worldwide.

In Manipur, majority of the tall and sophisticated buildings, luxurious vehicles and untold properties are attributed to the illicit trading of drugs, tablets, Ganja and other intoxicating substances. There have also been both open and undisclosed stories of drug trafficking happening in Manipur state. A number of high profile and powerful are obviously engaged in these trades. It is also intimately related to the political circles, as expensive elections are a feature of Manipur polity nowadays.

Demand begets supply and vice versa, creating an unending vicious spiral cutting into our moral and social fabric with a frightening pace. India too is caught in this scary web of drug abuse. According to UN report, one million heroin addicts are registered in India, and unofficially the number could be five times more. Manipur has been contributing a huge portion towards the figure, with our young ones falling prey to drugs and substance abuse menace.

Youth in any society occupy a delicate and sensitive position within the population structure for several reasons. Between the ages of twelve and seventeen, a person is regarded as a juvenile, and while he may be held responsible for his acts or omissions, he is treated under special laws. Peer pressure, weak parental control, child abuse, imitation, emotional stress, truancy among students, the availability of the drugs and the ineffectiveness of the laws on drug trafficking are reasons for young people abusing substances.

Cigarettes and alcohol are beginners as they are cheap and easily available. Cigarettes contain nicotine and it affects the body physically and psychologically. Cigarettes are addictive and they cause lung disorders. Alcohol such as Beer, wine, brandy and local brews are contains chemicals and has potential for addiction. Alcohol has a toxic and sedative effect on the body and is available without prescription. It is a central nervous system depressant and its consumption can cause a number of marked changes in behaviour.

The varied religious or irreligious conventions and traditions have in one way or the other help produce drugs and substances abuse in Manipur society. Ganja or Cannabis and home made brew/alcohol have been used for religious purposes since time immemorial. Raw Opium or Kanni were widely used for medicinal and recreational purposes in Manipur as a convention. Kanni is known to be a medicine during child births to subside delivery pains in ancient times. Earlier, Manipuri society was totally ignorant of the harms of psychoactive substances, Chemicals or Drugs and related health problems.

During 1970-1980, Psychoactive Substances or Drugs such as Morphine, Poldrom, Mandrake, Hypogen etc. were widely available and abused in Manipur. Heroin or No. 4 appeared in the early 80s. The quality of heroin was very pure and widely available at cheap rates. The sense of pleasure of its use spread like wild fire among the youths and adults of that generation. Heroin use was considered as fashionable, up-to-date and rich. Girls admired those youths who used heroin like rock stars.

From mid 1980's, Injecting Drug Users started committing crimes to finance their drug requirements. Stealing from family, friends, neighbors and locality became regular features. Street crimes, gang fights and frequent cases of overdose and deaths were reported often. Even innocent children were kidnapped and killed to snatch their gold earrings.

In late 80s and early 90s, the trend of drug abuse has changed with the intrusion of Pharmaceuticals such as Phenshydyl, Corex, Epidex, Sericodine, bonolex. Pain killers like Proxyvon, Parvon Spas, Spasmo Proxyvon (SP), Relipen (RP) and Prozep and transquilezes such as Diazepam, Valium, Nitrosun 10 (N10) etc. appeared as most friendly abuse items to young people. Nowadays, cheap and easily available substances such as Dendrite and correction fluids (Eraz-ex) are widely abused by young ones through smelling. School going teens are the most common in doing so.

Drug or substance abuse is an immoral behaviour of the youths. The degrading and all round system failure affecting every aspect of the society arising out of mis-governance etc. also aggravate this menace in Manipur. Young people take drugs or abuse substances for many reasons. May be they do so in order to cope with the frustration in life due to poverty, unemployment, broken family, unrest of mind and for self-amusement or for satisfying company of friends.

Many youths indulge in unwanted activities to gain acceptance and popularity among the peers. Due to their gregarious nature, young people seek the company of their own age groups. This leads to their exposure to various unwanted behaviour of their age group. The question is, since it would be impractical to expect them to dissociate from their herds, how they can be protected from being negatively influenced by the group behaviour. Here, the role of parents has to be discussed and focused.

One of the many ways youths may remain uninfluenced by unwanted behaviour may be by enhancing and strengthening their self-knowledge. Self-knowledge will lead to self-respect and self-confidence with the accompanying sense of direction in life. Culture as a guide to morality and rationality has a major role to play in this regard. That is, a generation of young people with identity crisis carried by their having caught in the conflict arising out of tradition and change, with confused notions of values easily become victims of undesirable impacts of the dominant mainstream cultural values.

The tendency for blind aping in the human nature can only be prevented by individuals with strong moral foundations that are easily taken care of by a deeper understanding of one's own self's notion. One who is endowed with a strong sense of direction in life, naturally has no time for straying into unproductive socially harmful activities. The disobedient youth in the family always create problems in the society. The social life without recreational activities also leads young people to indulge in drugs and alcohol. Lack of proper education, economic problems and political chaos, insurgent movements etc. are indirectly helping in the aggravation of the drugs problem in Manipur.

People at large hate the drug users. They scold them and ostracise them from social activities. They try to isolate them from friends and relatives. They are seen as criminals. No one thinks about the real causes of his misbehaviour. Instead of creating a supportive and enabling environment to relieve him from misbehaviour, the society rejects, stigmatises and discriminates him for his acts.

The attitude of the society towards the adolescent delinquents is to be impartial and positive as much as possible. Drug/ substance abuse is a disease and it cannot be treated overnight. It is high time parents and elders took special care for their wards and siblings by listening to their thoughts and voices in order to defend them from the dangerous substance abuse culture.

* Seram Neken wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at nekenseram(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on June 28 , 2016.

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