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Solvent drugs — a harmful new mode of intoxication
date: 09-November-2004
source : DAILY TIMES
country: PAKISTAN
editorial comment editorial comment
Ah, that's why pot is illegal. Thus these kids can turn to solvent and die faster. Well, abortion being illegal down there, that makes sense....

PESHAWAR: Solvent drugs, a relatively new mode of intoxication among the poor working class is highly injurious to health and can cause severe mental illness or death within one year of its regular use.

“These drugs include adhesives such as glues, petrol and by-products, such as varnish, thinner, benzene and gases like nitrous oxide,” said Dr Bashir Ahmad, a consultant psychiatrist at the Government Mental Hospital Peshawar.

He said that this form of addiction was more dangerous than smoking hashish and other narcotics. Six months to one year of regular use can cause severe mental illness and serious respiratory disorders, but a single high dose can also damage the brain or cause memory loss, he added.

Technically, solvent drugs are called ‘volatile substance abuse’ and have been defined as the “deliberate inhalation of gases, chemical fumes or vapours for mind altering and recreational purposes. It gives a high similar to that produced by alcohol. The drug helps release tension and the user feels euphoric and sleepy.

Inhalants can be breathed in through the nose or mouth in a variety of ways such as sniffing or snorting, huffing from a soaked rag stuffed in the mouth, spraying aerosols directly into the nose or mouth, he explained.

A majority of the solvent abusers (or users) he said were street children, including rag pickers and beggars or children working in motor mechanic shops and furniture industry.

Dr. Bashir said the government should take notice of this mode of intoxication, which was increasing by the day.

“The number of solvent drug abusers is increasing at an alarming rate and there is a dire need for taking measures to curb the menace at its emerging stage,” said Arshad Mehmood, deputy national coordinator for the Society for Protection of Child Rights (SPARC). A growing number of patients with addiction backgrounds are being reported in the various mental hospitals in Peshawar and other cities.

Arshad demanded the government include solvent drugs in its campaign against drug addiction, take measures for creating awareness among masses about this new and dangerous mode of addiction and ban the sale of solvent drugs to minor boys.

Dr Liaqat, programme manager of Darul Shifa Drop-in Centre, a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts operated by the NGO Dost Foundation, also believes that the number of solvent drug abusers is increasing.

In the last two years more than 20 street children have been sent in for rehabilitation, one of them went mad, he said.

According to a study conducted by the United Nations, the major problem reported among solvent abusers is respiratory tract infection, fever, and skin infections. Non-availability of the drug can lead to anger, agitation, restlessness, irritability and generalised aches according to the study.

The study also indicated a lack of clarity about detoxification of solvent abuse in the existing drug treatment facilities, compounded by no rehabilitation programme for the affected children.

The major factor to lead into the use of solvents reported by more than half of children was friends and peers. “There is an urgent need for the development of a comprehensive national strategy for the control and prevention of solvent abuse,” the study suggests.

Special emphasis should be laid on the rehabilitation of these children and various outlets in the shape of homes or drop-in centres need to be established in areas that are accessible to street children, it added. app

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