Dear Parents and Guardians,
Assalam-o-Allaikum and Good Evening
I would like to thank the Principal Mr Tim Musgrove for having given the opportunity to talk to the respectable parents about an issue which is of utmost importance, and that is Drug Abuse in our Youth.
Tragedies can sometimes become highly motivational. My son, Karim, was only 19 when I lost him to this menace of drugs. I had only two choices – run from myself or to help many of those, who are vulnerable like Karim. I chose the second but difficult one. Hence in 2015, we launched the Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation.
Our quest is to spread knowledge on prevention of drug use, equip parents, teachers and families on early signs and symptoms of drug use at home, schools and among friends.
To prevent drug use and substance abuse, we have been working with Ministry of Narcotics Control, Anti-Narcotics Force, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and also been meeting Ministry of Education to include our drug awareness in the curriculum of the schools.
Through our network of partners, we aim to create and nurture youth and families within a supportive community that will not only provide protection but prevent risk of getting trapped. We are devoted to creating awareness for non-addicts to identify and intervene in the hope of preventing tragedies to families, friends, and people unknown. We hope to assist the youth in understanding the multi-faceted issues related to drug abuse; the ramifications of which transcend personal anguish and erode core social and family values.
Drug abuse is an epidemic now and many reports states that drugs kill 700 people per day in Pakistan, and it will increase if we do not take essential measures and durable initiatives. I am sure this number must be alarming for all of you present here. It is an eminent threat, not only for Pakistan but for every country on this planet.
Pakistan is the worst affected throughout South Asia. It is, after all, home to the largest market for heroin consumption. What’s more, Pakistan is also a major exporter of heroin and in fact, approximately fifty tons of opium is illegally brought into Pakistan to produce heroin.
Reports show that in Pakistan, we have almost 7 million Drug Addicts – more specifically heroin dependent. We have 63% of the population under the age of 25. In other words an approximately 120 million youngsters. How are we engaging them? 35% of this 120 million are under the age of 15. This demographic segment also happens to be the most vulnerable as far as addictions and drug use are concerned. KKAWF therefore proposes to prioritize youth in our combined objectives.
Adolescence is a unique stage of development that requires special attention and guidance from parents, friends and teachers. Adolescents have diverse health needs including those related to their physical development, nutrition, sexuality, mental health, use of substances and other risk behaviors. Difficulties within the family, school, or peer group often emerge during the adolescent years.
Reaching adolescence the youth starts getting influenced by the surroundings and with hormone unbalanced comes;
- Curiosity: They want to know what it feels like to be drunk, intoxicated, or high.
- Peer pressure: Their friends are doing it or pressuring them to do the same.
- Acceptance: Their parents or role models are doing it and they want to feel accepted by those they look up to.
- Defiance: They want to rebel against rules placed on them.
- Risk-taking behaviors: They want to send out a call for help.
- Thrill-seeking activities: They want to experience something other than numbness.
- Boredom: They feel there is nothing else to do, and trying drugs or alcohol gives them a feeling of excitement.
- Independence: They want to make their own decisions and assert their own independence (not realizing that drugs are a prison)
- Pleasure: They want to feel good. Teens are dealing with a heavy mix of emotions, and drugs can help numb any pain and make them feel better even when times are tough.
- Traumas: Our society has those malicious and brutal elements, which causes traumas like Child abuse, domestic violence, rapes, human rights abuses like kidnapping and other kinds of traumas which leaves behind a lifetime of psychological effects on a child.
Growing up we used to feel that homes, schools and places of worship were the safest. But with so many bomb blasts and sad incident like APS, we realized that even our educational institutions are not safe. Our children are left with only option to stay at home and addicted to virtual gadgets.
This year, I have twice attended the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on World drug problem at United Nations Headquarters. It was after almost 20 years, the UN woke up to address this vital issue but we saw difference of opinion: some supported liberal laws with human rights for both drug users and drug traffickers, while others advocated strict policies and punishments for drug traffickers but lenient laws for the users.
KKAWF feels that the approach should be uniform and the commitment should be focused and globalized. KKAWF is against the legislation on liberalization of drugs and we believe that unless it is for medical purposes, drugs should be completely banned and strict legislations and laws should be in place for drug traffickers and those associated with this business. The global drug business exceeds 400 billion dollars per year, which makes it one of the most lucrative businesses in the world.
Drug users need help. With our combined efforts they could be brought back to normalcy whereby they would eventually become active members of society. However, those involved in this crime of selling death and making their empires, do not deserve any mercy.
The are many types of illicit drugs that are available in Pakistan like heroin, hashish, opium, morphine, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, ecstasy tablets, psychotropic tablets, etc.
There are many signs that a teen is using drugs. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the pangs of adolescence and actual drug use, but parents can be proactive in talking to their teen to find out what’s going on.
Some common signs of teen drug abuse include:
- Bad grades
- Bloodshot eyes
- Laughing for no reason
- Loss of interest in activities
- Poor hygiene
- Diminished personal appearance
- Avoiding eye contact
- Frequent hunger or “munchies”
- Smell of smoke on breath or clothes
- Secretive behavior
- Unusual tiredness
- Missing curfew
The worst thing about being addicted to drugs is that it is affecting the youth in every part of the world in a major way. The trouble starts with the school-going children but the problem is aggravated with abetment by those who wish to earn money out of selling drugs. The problem among children and youth arises because of a perception that they seem to harbour the notion of their inadequacy for failing to measure up to their expectations of their elders. Nowadays it has become fashionable for the actors and singers to include tales of drugs addiction and sexual references in their music. So instead of inculcating good values in the youth, the entertainment industry is responsible for propagating the use of drugs, which is further fuelling the addiction to drugs in both the developed and developing world.
The youth has become the target of major drug peddlers. These peddlers sell drugs and package them as symbols of revolution and freshness but have no regard for the consequences of their actions. Furthermore drugs take major part in terrorism, and evidently suicide bombers and those involved in terrorist activities use drugs before any act of terrorism so that they could not think about the consequences.
Drugs addiction among the youth is killing them morally and socially as well as psychologically and even physically. And, drug barons are becoming increasingly wealthier by supplying these drugs that are causing untold misery.
A consumer culture willing to “taking a pill for what ails you” and the perception of prescription drugs as less harmful than illicit drugs are other likely contributors to the problem. Unintentional overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers have outnumbered those involving heroin and cocaine.
Recreational use of prescription drugs is a serious problem with teens and young adults. Many teens think prescription drugs are safe because they were prescribed by a doctor. But taking them for nonmedical use to get high or “self-medicate” can be just as dangerous and addictive as taking illegal street drugs.
There are very serious health risks in taking prescription drugs. This is why they are taken only under the care of a doctor. And even then, they have to be closely monitored to avoid addiction or other problems.
Steroids are also a great danger. Yesterday at Zaman Park, a boy, 26 years old, father of two, died.
It is extremely dangerous to take any pill that you are uncertain about or was not prescribed for you. People can also have different reactions to drugs due to the differences in each person’s body chemistry. A drug that was okay for one person could be very risky, even fatal, for someone else.
Another issue is lack of female-friendly services and female drug users’ reluctance to seek professional/qualified help due to social stigma, family reputation, marital risks and cultural constraints makes them doubly suffer in silence or be exploited by quacks, dubious faith-healers, and untrained psychiatrists treating them as mental cases.
With these facts in mind, KKAWF decided to collectively strive – asking mothers, families, friends, professionals and enforcement agencies, to join hands – to protect our kids against drugs thereby ensuring a happier and more productive future for our Nation. Through our five pillars that our Foundation stands on – which are Drug Awareness, Environment, Sports, Art & Culture and Developing Civic Sense – we hope to develop a physical, emotional and mental balance in our youth which will leave no room for any form of drug abuse and will make them successful and useful members of our society.
By changing the perspectives on how to approach the drug abuse issue, we hope that we can assist our youth to become a proactive force of our society equipped with the necessary knowledge to address and tackle this menace.
This is a daunting task and cannot be handled by a few conscience citizens or organizations. We need a public-private partnership with a unique, far-reaching and long lasting commitment and approach towards drug eradication. If parents are actively involved in the nurturing of their children, they would simply fill in all those holes from where the risks sneak in. You should know their activities, behavior, friends circle, their engagements and their academic performance. When you engage with them, you complete them. Your participation in their life would eventually decrease their dependence on virtual addiction as well as the risks of getting addiction of drugs.
Secondly we seek your support to make drug awareness a mandatory subject in all the schools so that an adolescent should know the priorities and choices before choosing wrong.
We would also encourage our youth to adopt organic lifestyle. I am sure that most of us present here have seen our parents and grandparents getting herbal cure for most of their illnesses. The benefit of healthy lifestyle diminishes all the possibility of the risks I have mentioned. For instance, the advantages of sports and physical activities makes ones completely addicted to it and then the other addictions merely matters for you.
Physical education is compulsory at primary and lower secondary level at most of the countries. For almost all countries, the main aim of physical education lies in fostering children’s physical, personal and social development.
When you are physically active, your mind is distracted from daily stressors. This can help avoid getting bogged down by negative thoughts. Exercise reduces the levels of stress hormones in your body. At the same time, it stimulates production of endorphins. These are natural mood lifters that can help keep stress and depression at bay. Endorphins may even leave you feeling more relaxed and optimistic after a hard workout on the field.
Sports and other forms of physical activity improve the quality of sleep. It does this by helping you fall asleep faster and deepening your sleep. Sleeping better can improve your mental outlook the next day, as well as improve your mood.
Team sports such as soccer, hockey, volleyball and basketball are breeding grounds for leadership traits. Because of the opportunity to train, try, win, or lose together, people involved in sports are naturally more inclined to adopt a “team mindset” in the workplace and in social situations. The team mindset leads to strong leadership qualities over time.
Since sports is one of our pillars, and we feel that ‘Sports is the answer’ and actually we have named our coming programme as ‘Sports is the answer’, we will use all our energies and resources to push government to implement ‘Clause 12’ of the Sports Policy, which is part of our constitution, which clearly states that ALL schools must ensure that they participate in at least four games. We have seen the results of lack of sports activities in our educational institutions, due to addiction to drugs.
Here I would like to mention about the countries which have included sports and physical education as compulsory in their educational institutions, have seen marvelous results, not only in the health and fitness of their youth, but also showing their steadfast presence in Olympics. Countries like United Kingdom, with a constant rise in the Olympics and United States to remain at the top holding almost more than double the medals than the runner up. This is result of a constant implementing of sports policy, making it physical education as compulsory for every school.
Indeed, in some countries physical education is not limited to physical education classes, but is integrated into the daily school routine.
The foremost objective should be to involve educational institutes as partners to fight drugs use. For that, we are in preparation of the intensive teachers training programmes on creating awareness among youth. We are also aiming to include courses and interesting syllabus that educate youth on drug use and its harmful effects on health. We must provide tools as preemptive measures and to empower youth to choose not to take drugs in the first place.
I was shocked to see the report of UNESCO published in 2013, which shows that Pakistan is the lowest in implementing Physical Education in its schools. Our average minutes per week comes to 35 minutes while India is at 60 Minutes, Afghanistan and Nepal is at 45 Minutes, while Bangladesh, which was part of us, is leading Asia at 180 Minutes per week. Only with our individual as well as collective efforts, we can make a comeback in sports and beat all these countries, which have been our competitors.
Primarily KKAWF is an Advocacy Awareness Prevention organization, but witnessing so many tragic events happening with teenagers and receiving constantly phone calls and emails from desperate mothers is when we and our counselors feel the urgency to create also a proper most needed Rehabilitation Center with more holistic approach to Teens addiction treatment, providing addiction support to Individuals Friends and Families. Holistic is a type of healing focusing on the psychological, emotional and physical aspects of health combined.
A center for Prevention, Counseling, Rehabilitation, Vocational Training and Reintegration. Specifically for Teens and Young Adults- Boys and Girls under the extremely close supervision of our trained professionals.
We believe in physical, culture and Arts engagement. A community Farm where every patient after Detox will be engaged in various activities.
We have identified some counselors that are working with our Foundation and their contact is available at our facebook page for any help related to drugs and psychological issues.
The task ahead is immense and requires assistance at all levels, in whatever way possible and from wherever possible – this epidemic transcends borders and boundaries – and it could be anyone’s child.
Recently we commemorated International Overdose Awareness Day for the first time in Pakistan and organized a community event – with students from different educational institutions, their families and friends. The event included a cycling competition – both professional and amateur, showcasing an episode of animated series ‘Burka Avenger’ specifically on drugs and musical performance of three different bands. We feel that Sports is the Answer and engaging in Sports and Physical activities will surely bring much better results.
The motive behind the event was to create awareness regarding the overdose. We distributed Emergency Response Brochure, which includes the basic information on how to deal an overdose victim, and please take one copy of this brochure for you as it is available here. The parents for their preparedness on how to respond to a sudden drug overdose incident and what measures they should take to help the addict. One addict affects entire family – addiction is a prison.
My dream is to get a respectable position in the medal chart of Olympics and also in other team sports which we have won in the past but have not produced good results in the last few years. With the number of Youth we have, it is definitely doable.
I was also disappointed to see one of the reports of Express Tribune, which shows that more than 40% of our youth want to go abroad to pursue their future goals. They do not know that Pakistan is full opportunities and basically they have to create those opportunities for themselves. Here I can fairly give my own example – I had choice to live in any country of the world with all cultures and country opening doors of opportunities for me – I chose Pakistan and I reinvented myself to create and utilize opportunities. Since 1998, I am here, I have done business, I learned Urdu, I have been to almost every part of the country and I feel proud to be a Pakistani.
We suggest that it’s time we should stop to think that grass of the neighbor is greener – it is just because your neighbor is looking after the grass that is why it’s greener. We can do that and it is very much possible. In every situation, if we don’t look at our own house, we would never be able to see the positive side. I feel that mothers have major responsibility since they are the creators of our future. Mothers can engage their children as an instrument for a better tomorrow.
Karim had finished his A-Level, was happy going to the gym, planning his holidays and eager to study law. It was just a night out with friends for never come back. I would not like anyone to go through the pain of losing a child. It is a tragedy forever.
World these days is so nasty that your enemies will hit you through your kids. We know enough stories of Chowkidar, drivers and servants that are involved in the business and supplying drugs right at the protection of your home.
I hope that all of you here will be joining hands in the battle against drugs. The laws are there, it is just to influence enough for the enforcement. With parents, especially mothers playing their role, and we as a society pressurizing our government to implement Sports Policy, and the teachers and educational institutions playing their vital role in the upbringing of a child, it will be our victory. Join us in our MAD (Mothers Against Drugs) programme. Like our page & join our website.
We unfortunately, live in a world of uncertainly with so many questions remaining unanswered. This vacuum, in turn, has allowed fear to creep into our culture; weakening mankind and making us fragile and vulnerable. We can no longer place ourselves on a pedestal from where we callously judge others. Our role is not to judge, but to accept others for what they are and to help those that may need our help without tarnishing their self-respect.
Sadly we are concentrating more in academic than humane part. Straight ‘A’s is what our focus and aim is, but I feel that we need good human beings that can tolerate differences and rescue the real values. Trend to be successful and rich puts so much pressure in a materialistic way that human aspect is forgotten.