More teenagers seeking help for substance use at IMH’s Drug Treatment Clinic

Psychiatrists say there is a changing trend of school-going adolescents/teens using illicit drugs and many start out of curiosity

Published - November 26, 2022 08:50 pm IST - CHENNAI

“Parents should be aware of any change in behaviour in their children and talk to them, and get in touch with their teachers as well”P. Poorna Chandrika Director, Institute of Mental Health, Chennai

Psychiatrists at the Institute of Mental Health’s (IMH) Drug Treatment Clinic (DTC) are seeing more teenagers seeking help for substance use. Many parents turn anxious and find it hard to handle children reporting use of illicit drugs, raising the need for better understanding and awareness.

The DTC has been catering to drug-dependent patients. Psychiatrists are seeing patients with alcohol-dependency, nicotine-dependency and those addicted to cannabis.

“My monthly census of drug-dependent patients may vary from 200-250. In that, 20-25 are around 12-20 age group. They form 10% of the outpatient census. Every day, I see around 10 new patients and 15 to 20 patients come for follow-up,” V. Monica, medical officer at DTC, IMH.

In fact, this was not the case five years ago, she said. “I am seeing patients aged 12 to 14. There is a changing trend of school-going adolescents/young teens using illicit drugs. Use of alcohol, nicotine and cannabis are more common while ecstasy drugs are less common. There are children who consume packaged tobacco products that are not cigarettes. Many start out of curiosity,” Dr. Monica said.

However, glamorisation of drug use on OTT platforms has led to an increase in substance use, she said raising the need for awareness. “We are hosting regular talks on Twitter. Drug use affects brain development. It has an impact on cognition and focus as well. We can help children through psychosocial interaction alone. Parents, often, turn anxious and are unable to handle children, resulting in school dropouts too,” she said.

She put forward the need to view dependency as a disease and understand the need to consult a psychiatrist for help.

P. Poorna Chandrika, director of IMH, said the State government was taking supply-reduction measures. “There is a need to identify all drug supply routes and curb them. The Tamil Nadu drug abuse survey, which is going to be taken up, will give us a clear picture to take concrete measures,” she said.

She said there was an increase in the awareness level among teachers and headmasters of schools and many wanted awareness programmes to be conducted in schools. “Parents should be aware of any change in behaviour in their children and talk to them, and get in touch with their teachers as well,” she added.

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