By Preeyati Chopra

Intern, Government Medical College & Rajindra Hospital, Patiala

Tyler started using drugs in sixth grade as a way to make friends and fit in. He was overweight, and other students teased him about it.

“I wanted people to like me, and I wanted to feel accepted,” he said. “And the easiest way to find that was with people who partied because they don’t care about you at all. As long as you’re partying, you’re good to go.”

Tyler’s drug use escalated, from alcohol and marijuana to pills and heroin. He was in and out of jail. Tyler entered treatment at age 21 and has been sober for about six years.

His family life deteriorated from the stress of his drug use. 

Source: (

We’ve all heard about substance abuse, read extensively about it, and if you’re a medical student you have probably spread awareness about it. You know a story or two yourself of people or patients who lost their lives to drug abuse or are living under its slavery every day.

According to a report published by the National Centre for Drug Abuse Prevention, the critical period for initiation of drug abuse of early (12-14) or late (15-17) adolescence, and the peak of substance abuse is generally seen in the age group of 18-25 years. (1)

In a 10-city survey conducted during May 2019-June 2020, it was found over 10% of school-going students from Class 8 -12 indulged in substance use (ranging from inhalants, Cannabis, and opioids to alcohol and tobacco). (2)

One cannot help but question, Why? Why does a child or a student start taking drugs? What exactly can lead to the transition from recreational use to abuse?

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (3), there are many reasons why one may think of ‘trying’ our drugs. It may be to feel better, to stimulate a feeling of euphoria, sometimes to cope with the stresses in life, and sometimes because of one’s curiosity & peer pressure (one of the most repetitive words one might hear with substance abuse).

The age group indicates that college students during this time are in a mindset to explore new things in their lives. Thus, one may ‘try’ a drug out of curiosity with the belief that they are in control of their choices initially. Continuous and regular use of drugs is known to involve functional changes in the brain, especially to the reward, stress, and self-control circuits. These changes may last even years after the person has stopped taking drugs. (3)

When it comes to school-going students, seeing family members indulge in using such substances along with emotional & behavior-related issues such as inattentiveness also play a role.

Thus what started as an experimental use of one drug transitions to multiple drugs with increasing amounts to stimulate the same ‘high’. This can easily passage into abuse and is likely to reach a point of self-harm where the person’s decision-making and behavior control are affected.

Now, reading this, one might think if someone uses a drug once or twice it can lead up to the point of addiction and game over. But no, it is not like that.

The likelihood of developing an addiction depends from person to person. There are several risk factors vs protective factors that determine one’s addiction potential. (See Image below)

Risk FactorsProtective Factors
Aggressive behavior in childhoodSelf-efficacy (belief in self-control)
Lack of parental supervisionParental monitoring and support
Low peer refusal skillsPositive relationships
Drug experimentationGood grades
Availability of drugs at schoolSchool anti-drug policies
Community povertyNeighborhood resources


Awareness & Advocacy

I believe, we as a society need to understand, substance abuse and addiction are beyond bad habits & choices. They are classified as medical disorders. Addiction is defined as a chronic disorder characterized by the compulsive need to use drugs despite harmful consequences. (4)

An addict needs professional help to recover and restore their lives.

They need a nurturing environment at home and access to professional help. The process of recovery is a long and arduous road but with proper help and willingness, one can dream of returning to their life. Educating parents about the struggles their child might be facing in school can help them understand and support their child better.

June 26 every year is celebrated as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking to strengthen collective action and cooperation for a society free of drug abuse.

“Great acts are made up of small deeds.”

Lao Tzu


Sources of Images attached: Google


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