Street children glued to sniffing adhesives for a high

Kathmandu, August 1:

It is midday. The street is busy with people on the move and the hurly-burly as usual. Abandoned at a traffic island at Jamal is a mother of one who is high on glue, an intoxicant now prized by street children in the city.

Shanti (name changed) is someone who grew up on the streets, and her companions include her two-and-a-half-year-old son. The minor, too, inhales glue for kicks. They do it after squeezing it into a plastic bag.

The glue contains neurotoxic hydrocarbon, which depresses the appetite and causes hallucinations if inhaled. “Shanti’s son, who picked up the habit of consuming alcohol and sniffing adhesives is, however, only a case of its kind,” according to Kabir Pradhan, Sub-Inspector at the Women’s Cell.

“Almost 95 per cent of the children below 14 years and living on the streets are addicted to adhesives. They have plastic bags with glues in them all the time,” he added. “We are a group of six and beg in the streets. We use as many as five tubes a day,” Shanti said. A single tube of adhesive, which costs Rs 50, is easily available and affordable.

Biso Bajracharya, executive director of Sath Sath, a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) involved in campaigning against drug abuse explained the phenomenon.

“They have picked up the habit after initially taking the glue as a defence against cold and difficulties of street life.”

“Most of the children are rag pickers and earn Rs 200 a day on an average. Moreover, since they do not have to spend for food and shelter, which is now provided by a few NGOs working for children, they use the extra cash they have to buy their dose of intoxicant,” he said.

Chandrodaya, Sath Sath and the Kathmandu Valley Police jointly organised a campaign in 2004 to alert the hardware shops and cobblers on the sale of such adhesives. “We organised street dramas which had helped minimise the menace. However, it is spreading again,” said Himmat Maskey, the General Secretary of CPCS, an NGO. He said the habit has spread to school and higher secondary students.

Maskey, however, said that the spread cannot be controlled through campaigns since glue in not considered a drug. He was of the view that the government must have rules, which bar shops from selling the substances to minors.

The Narcotic Drugs (Control) Act, 1976, has branded the ‘cultivation, production, preparation, manufacture, export, import, purchase, possession, sale or consumption of most commonly abused drugs’ as illegal.

The Act, amended in 1993, implements most of the UN Single Convention and the 1972 Protocol by addressing narcotics production, manufacture, sales, import and exports.