Staff Reporter

Common substances used include nicotine, alcohol, cannabis-related substances, opium, party drugs, inhalants, prescription drugs (sedative, pain killers, cough syrup), cocaine

NEW DELHI: With an overall 50 per cent increase in substance abuse among teenagers the world over, Delhi is no exception, mental health professional and educators have warned.

Despite attempts to limit access to psychoactive substances by young people, the use of such substances is common among adolescents and growing in some groups. Common substances used by adolescents include nicotine, alcohol, cannabis related substances (grass, weed), opium related substances (smack, brown sugar), party drugs (ecstasy, magic mushrooms), inhalants (diluter of ink), prescription drugs (sedative, pain killers, cough syrup) and cocaine.

"Substance abuse can affect the psychosocial development of adolescents. However, clinicians and researchers are only now developing an understanding of substance use disorders in adolescents and attempting to develop effective methods of treatment and prevention," said psychiatrist Samir Parikh, who is also Chief of Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Max Healthcare.

Doctors insist that the "at risk" population should be screened for warning signs that would alert parents and push them into taking action. To look out for are symptoms including fatigue, repeated health complaints, red glazed eyes, lasting cough, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behaviour, low self-esteem, poor judgement, depression, withdrawing, avoidance of family, low interest, negative attitude, drop in results, absenteeism, change of friends and change of likings and dressings.

Speaking about the falling age group of substance abusers and the high rate of relapse to the tune of 40-60 per cent, senior psychiatrist P.S. Das said: "What is frustrating is the fact that follow-up of patients is poor and relapse is common. While previously we had college students coming in with tobacco and cannabis related abuse, we are now seeing young school students reporting with smack, alcohol, solvent and sedative use. It is a worrying trend." "There is no single line of treatment appropriate for all patients. It is important to match treatment plan, interventions and services to each individual's particular problem and need. Also required is that the patient remains in treatment for adequate period of time, co-existing mental health treatment plan and frequent follow-ups," added Dr. Das.