A 19-year-old Pune student died last week after she allegedly consumed excessive alcohol at her own birthday party. More than 800 underage kids were found at a party busted by Pune rural police weeks ago where alcohol flowed freely.
These aren’t isolated cases as addiction amongst adolescents is on the rise and psychiatrists say it is imperative parents don’t dismiss it as a ‘behavioural issue’ but accept it as psychiatric illness needing help.
Child psychiatrist Dr Bhooshan Shukla said that addiction in adolescents is rising almost at epidemic proportions.
“In most cases, we see that parents are in a denial mode. They refuse to accept that the adolescent may be having a drinking problem or drug abuse or other addictions. They see it as a behavioural problem, and don’t accept that getting hooked onto addictions at such young age is not normal. These children need help from trained counsellors,” said Shukla.
Take the case of 14-year-old Anupam Desai (name changed) who goes to a posh city school. Initially, a bright student, Desai got hooked to inhaling whitener, nail paint removers and shoe polish. His working parents failed to notice changes in his behaviour until they received his report that showed miserable grades. “I got into a fight with his tuition teacher who said my son used to skip classes regularly and it wasn’t his fault. His school teachers showed me his calendar where he had forged my signature to reply to remarks. He used to be moody, irritable, stay in his room but I dismissed it as growing up issues. In fact, when we were told to take him to a counsellor, we debated for weeks as we didn’t like the idea of going to a psychiatrist,” she said.
At Muktangan Rehabilitation Centre, director Mukta Puntambekar said cases of children visiting out patient clinics were especially increasing. Of the 150-odd cases, 25% cases of addictions are adolescents below 18 years.
“The social morals are changing, acceptability of drinking and party culture is more. Family units are deteriorating, children see parents drinking and equate enjoyment with alcohol. At most times, parents are too busy and early signs are missed until grades begin to fall or complaints received from school,” she said.
Sanjay Bhagat, co-ordinator at the centre, said cases of addiction to technology and social networking websites were increasing too.
“What’s shocking is that these children show same symptoms like withdrawal, irritation and aggressiveness like a person dependent on alcohol,” he said.
Ajay Dudhane, founder president of NGO Anandwan said cases of addiction in adolescents were so high that it forced the organisation to take up a statewide de-addiction drive.
However, psychiatrists say what is important for parents is to accept that children need help and not shove the issues under the carpet.
“We have seen cases where families disintegrated because parents simply refused to accept that their children have a psychiatric illness. Sadly, I had a recent patient whose parents refused to take drastic steps and a few weeks later, the intoxicated kid met with an accident and died. Though such an outcome is rare, but it is not unthinkable,” said psychiatrist Dr Neville Misquita.