The workshop, organised in association with Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, sought to highlight the dangers of substance abuse.

It’s an abysmal low that takes away more than the ‘ultimate high’ can ever give. This was the message given to those gathered at the one-day workshop on “Advocacy of drug abuse prevention” held at Prajna Counselling Centre here on Monday.

In the sessions that were devoid of district-level officials, all of whom backed out from participating in the programme, it was the stories of ex-addicts that lucidly illustrated the ill-effects of drug abuse.

William (name changed) said his journey into Corex (a cough syrup) addiction started when he was a law student. “You start off by thinking that what affects everyone else cannot affect you. As an educated person, I started seeing it as something ‘progressive’ people do,” he said.

What he called the “ultimate high” after the first bottle he consumed, soon turned into 11 bottles a day with lesser highs. “I had to have a bottle just to feel normal,” he said and added that during the four-year period of addiction, he was transformed from a school topper to someone who fared badly in law examinations.

His descent ultimately affected his heart. In 2007, after he was found having multiple blocks in his heart, he joined Narcotics Anonymous – a therapeutic group for addicts by ex-addict. Since then, he says he hasn’t looked back.

For Suresh (name changed), alcoholism came despite seeing it ravage his abusive uncle. However, through a series of reasons – including loneliness at staying away from his family, pressures of the job, and even the weather – he took to the bottle. In the 10-year period of heavy drinking, which also involved an accident – “I was drunk and blacked out. I don’t recall how the accident happened. All I know is that I woke up three days later in the hospital,” he said – his family had been reduced to penury. “I was the only earning member and I had spent it all on alcohol,” he said.

Eventually, he was forced into Prajna counselling centre for rehabilitation. Nearly 20 years later, he says he lives to tell the tale to a whole new generation of people.

Younger and younger

The workshop, organised in association with Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, sought to highlight the dangers of substance abuse.

Hilda Rayappan of the Prajna Counselling Centre said the demographic of addicts coming to the centre was getting younger. “Children now do marijuana, alcohol, sniff whitener, and other substances. It starts because their peers do it, or they steal drinks from their parents,” she said and added that being hooked to a mobile or the television could be considered addiction among the younger generation.

Debunking the myth of women not being addicts, she said: “In the district, there is a greater chance that a woman ends up being an alcoholic. It is tradition here to give her alcohol for 40 days after delivery of her child, and also, here it is generally the women who prepare local toddy,” Ms. Rayappan said.

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