Kathmandu: ‘Pillars of the nation’, so they say, ‘hopes of tomorrow’ and even ‘future stars’. These are a few expressions that scholars and wise men in the world use to describe ‘students’. It is true also, and for this very reason students need to be taken care of and guided properly so that all their roads lead them to success.

However, this is easier said than done when there are some enticing dark alleys and confusing crossroads ahead, which can actually destroy all their hopes. Yes, we are talking about adolescents at the risk of being hooked to substance use. This issue demands adequate consideration.

The transition from middle to high school, when students enter adulthood, is particularly a risky time for them, putting them at an increased risk of drug use. They are keen to try out new things as they search for an identity independent from their parents and are susceptible to low self-esteem and peer pressure. These factors make the teenage years a crucial time when most people are most likely to experiment with cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, or inhalants. Some will be able to leave it at that the experimentation stage, while others will continue and develop damaging addictions.

A research work was conducted by the MBA first semester students of KU School of Management with the objective to determine the most prevalent substances used by the adolescent high school students within Kathmandu Valley and to identify the factors that influence the students to instigate the decision of abusing such substances. The study was a descriptive survey of the school adolescent from Grades VII to XII.

Here are some major findings of the research work.

— Nearly 47 per cent of the school students (120 were interviewed) were found to use substances of one kind or the other. Out of 47 per cent of users, male students were more likely to use substances than the females. Cigarettes were found to be the most prevalent form of substance used among the students in comparison to alcohol, inhalants, and other drugs. About 70 per cent of the students responded that if they ever had a drug or alcohol problem and needed help, they would prefer to go to a counsellor and friends rather than approach their parents and other relatives with their problem.

The study revealed that use of substance among school adolescents was significantly associated with experimentation, curiosity, and the behaviours of an individual. However, these are not the only influencing factors. Peer pressure, family problems, and media enticement have also contributed a lot when it comes to substance abuse. Moreover, the level of knowledge among adolescent students regarding the hazards of substance use was minimal.

Those who have substance abuse problems are usually the last ones to realise or admit it. They think they can handle it and feel they are still in control. The process of falling into abuse and addiction is very subtle and the stages of addiction incremental. For this reason identification is not always straightforward. The mechanism of denial can also be at work on the part of parents and other adults.

Prevention is better than care, but what about those who are already hooked? We cannot simply lose hope and let go. The key word here is ‘hope’ and we just cannot afford to lose it. So, the first thing to be taken into consideration is the change in social perception. We need to change the way we look at those who have already developed an addiction to substance abuse and believe they can be cured.

The issue we are dealing with is very very critical. We are talking about school adolescents here, who are the future of the world and who hold the key to a blissful tomorrow.

(Study conducted by Amit Shrestha, Erika Lamechanne, Mukti Raut, Tejaswi Malla, KUSOM)