School children in Goa have started consuming drugs, and North Goa is witnessing a surge in the use of drugs among women, according to Dr Shilpa Pandya and Dr Rajesh Dhume, both heads of de-addiction centres of the Directorate of Health Services in South and North Goa, respectively.
“Drugs have started entering schools, and I think the need of the moment is to create awareness amongst students, parents and teachers. Children as young as fifteen are being introduced to drugs,” disclosed an alarmed Dr Pandya.
“We are seeing a surge in number of addicts among children and women in North Goa. We get an average of around fifteen to twenty patients every day in the OPD suffering from addiction,” admitted Dr Dhume.
“There is an increase in the number of addicts compared to the past, but since our treatment is on par with international levels, the retention rate has increased and the dropout rate has reduced,” assured Dr Dhume.
“Over 175 high school teachers from South Goa participated in a training workshop conducted by us in collaboration with doctors from the Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour (IPHB), and this is just one way of handling the problem,” confessed Dr Pandya.
“Drug addiction cases are more than what they were before, the problem is less than what it is in North Goa,” stated Dr Borkar, Medical Superintendent of Hospicio Hospital. “This is my broad overview,” he added.
“The problem is pretty bad and it gets worse because many parents are unaware, and those who are, fear societal alienation. Most parents prefer home visits,” said a leading private psychiatrist on the condition of anonymity.
“There are times when parents are not even aware that their child’s erratic behaviour is due to dependence on drugs. High school children have started falling in this bracket,” revealed the psychiatrist.
“There are accidents involving youngsters in North and South Goa since the last year, and in most cases, those accidents are due to consumption of intoxicants,” stated a doctor in the trauma unit of Goa Medical College (GMC).
The pattern of consumption of drugs is seeing a change with soft drugs like hashish and marijuana now being replaced by a mixture of chemicals or pharmaceutical prescriptions passed off as drugs.
“Ketamine is one of the drugs mixed with some other white chemical and sold as ecstasy, speed or cocaine to gullible youngsters. Heroin is hardly consumed in the northern belt these days,” observed Walter Lobo from Baga, who is a witness to the influence of drugs.
“For a drug dealer, it does not matter whether the user is Goan, Indian or foreigner. He wants the money and that is all that matters. It explains why drugs are reaching children today,” stated Liz, as she waited for her child outside a psychiatric clinic.
“I first found my child’s behaviour erratic and later realised money started going missing at home. It was then that I confronted the situation,” she stated in conversation. “My child has stopped now, but I fear a relapse,” she added.
“Since we are getting internationally used medicine for treatment now, the relapse rate has dropped. The new drugs used are making a big difference in relation to the response from addicts,” disclosed Dr Dhume while admitting the de-addiction centre in the North District
Hospital is being run under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Welfare and Empowerment. This new treatment, according to Dr Dhume, was started in January 2022 as a flagship addiction treatment facility in North Goa.
“Drugs before used to be sold from certain points where the peddlers would hang around. With technology, drugs are being sold differently, and that makes it more difficult to zero in on the culprits,” admitted a member of the Anti Narcotic Cell (ANC).
That youngsters in Goa are increasingly succumbing to the lure of drugs, is a reality we have to deal with. Senior doctors have admitted this alarming fact. It is time for all to wake up and start noticing that something is amiss before it is too late. As Dr Pandya warned, “In a few years, we will be living a nightmare.”