Street children face violence, sexual exploitation, and psychological abuse from their own peers, elders, and cruel adults. This is worsened by a culture of escapism – children actively seek out the next ‘high’ to find solace in their lives. Without any motivation to achieve and thrive, they channelise all their energies towards developing and sponsoring an addiction that holds them firmly in its grip. This must be understood in detail in order to identify solutions.
1. Drug addiction in children: an overview
For children on the streets drugs are not just a recreational thing, it’s also their refuge. These children, often abused not just by criminals but also by those who are supposed to protect them, use drug abuse as an escape route from the cruel realities of their life as a beggar, child labour or worse. A study by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Substance Abuse by Children revealed that 100% of children involved in unlawful activities were consuming drugs. Shockingly only 93% of street children did drugs compared to 95.5% of those in childcare facilities.
2. Why children begin consuming drugs
Drugs act a way for these children to get through their daily routine of hardships and abuse. Many of these children work through the day in harsh conditions, just to earn a couple of hundred rupees that are used to feed their drug habit. Peer-pressure and stress are factors that lead most students to drugs. Instead of counselling them, many schools take the easy way out by punishing children.
3. Addicts are starting younger
Substance abusers are found to be as young as nine, according to a recent report titled ‘Mental Health Care of Children’ by Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights. Specialists also suggest that the tendency to blow away their earnings is common with street children as they lack ‘storage’ for their earnings like bank accounts. Rather than letting adults snatch it away, they spend money on food, entertainment and drugs. As their addiction becomes stronger, everything else takes a backseat.
4. Gateway drugs
Tobacco and alcohol, both easily available, serve as the ‘gateway substances’ to hardcore substance abuse. Tobacco in many forms, including bidis, is consumed by a large population of street children ranging between 40-80% depending on the cities surveyed. Many children drop out of schools just to earn money and fund their drug habits. Alcohol use among youngsters, between the age of 15 and 19, is also on the rise.
5. How Save the Children fights against social evils
Save the Children works in various ways to try and get the youth away from substance abuse. From making schooling affordable to identifying the dropouts and motivating them to return to schools, the NGO does it all. The NGO also works to create Friendly Environments’ in intervention schools in slums and rural areas. Children groups are educated about their rights and motivated to fight for them. With the aid of cops, the NGO has rescued over 50,000 child domestic workers.
90% of street children across the world use narcotics in some form, according to data from the World Health Organisation. As they have become hooked on drugs when they are most vulnerable, simply pushing them into rehabilitation, and expecting the best outcomes is not the answer. The causative factors that push people into addiction include the cruelties of street life, exploitation, and violence must be replaced by a supportive atmosphere. Further, children who seek to escape to a better life must have the guarantees of nutrition, comfort,and a future. Their ability to work must be channelised towards their own futures, instead of only attempting to sponsor their addictions through remedial facilities and skills based centres. Donate to NGO initiatives like Save the Children to give these children a future.