Studies have shown that drug and alcohol abuse is a growing problem among university students in Pakistan. A study conducted to assess the perceptions of medical students from Pakistan found that the most commonly abused drugs include tobacco, alcohol, opium, cannabis, hallucinogens, stimulants, sedatives, amphetamines and cocaine. Another study found that the incidence of drug abuse amongst university students in Punjab was higher than other provinces in Pakistan.
Awareness of substance misuse among medical students is also an issue. A study on the well-being of medical students and their awareness on substance misuse found that many were unaware of the use of alcohol by their peers to cope with stress.
Overall, drug and alcohol abuse is a growing problem among university students in Pakistan. More research needs to be done to understand why this is happening and how it can be addressed.
Drug abuse is the wilful misuse of drugs or compulsive out of control usage of drugs, despite the negative consequences that are imminent. Pakistan is said to have about 6.7 million drug users according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The drug addicts are more than 4 million making Pakistan one of the top drug using countries.
Heroin and marihuana are the major abusive drugs but designer drugs (cannabinoids) have shown an increase in distribution. Most of the drugs are imported or smuggled from Afghanistan; the country is thought to be responsible for at least 75% of the heroin in the world. A study from UNODC calculated that more than 800,000 Pakistanis between the ages of 15 and 64 use heroin on a regular basis.
Drug abuse has actually become a trend between Pakistani students. To be the part of the “IT” crowd or more commonly known as the popular kids, students take the help of drugs.
A study was carried out in this regard, 174 self-reported questionnaires were received, with an 87% response rate. The most common reason stated by the students for drug abuse were peer pressure about 96%, academic stress about 90% and curiosity which was near 88%. Most of the arguments supported the fact that drugs helped the students to sleep. According to the study 77% students claimed that the drugs did not help them or improve their exam performance while 54% stated that the drugs helped eliminate or alleviate the stress. Seventy Six percent said that they have no intention of using drugs even in the future. Day scholars and female students were more against the whole drug abuse dilemma and were more likely to discourage a fellow student from using drugs excessively. The main stances against drug abuse were religion about 76%, morality was 78% and harmful effects of the drugs were 57%.
Suggestions given by the students to decrease the drug abuse situation were counselling facilities and more recreational facilities.
The most vulnerable to the whole drug abuse thing are medical personnel as they are in close contact with the drugs. Many studies have estimated that drug abuse is the highest among students of medical sciences. In accordance with a study it was claimed that that there is a high occurrence of misuse of tranquillizers, alcohol and psychedelics among the medical students and the dependence rate is 3% for doctors and 5% for medical students.
According to Professor Ashraf, the Head of Community Medicine at CMH Lahore Medical College young people are more susceptible to drug use. He argued that the young people might talk about the highs they get from the use but are quite unaware of the lows. He further stated that the availability of drugs in Pakistan has left the young souls lifeless.
The professor also stated that people who start smoking and drinking alcohol from a young age are much likely to deal with illegal drugs in the later parts of their lives’ as compared to people who do not smoke or drink. Efforts should be made to eliminate and control tobacco smoking in Pakistan as it is the gateway to drug abuse he said.
The drug abuse situation among students in Pakistan is getting worse day by day. The government and the authorities should take certain measures to counter this problem. Awareness programs through mass media, lectures, essay contests and declamation contests should be held in colleges, schools and universities. This will help creating awareness amongst students regarding the bad effects of drug abuse. Awareness’ programs for the public should be run on televisions and radio every day.
There is also a very immediate need to increase facilities for the drug addicts as treatment is very costly in the private sector.