SOUTH Goa collector Anjali Sehrawat’s decision to go to colleges in her district with police and education officials to create awareness among students of ill effects of narcotic drugs is a good beginning in the fight against rising drug addiction among college students. Perhaps Sehrawat could make her awareness raising programme include alcohol, for addiction to alcohol has been rising among college students too, and the ill effects of alcohol can be as bad as of drugs. Several times more college students drink alcohol than take drugs. Alcohol abuse can produce similar effects on the brain than drug abuse. Both have a negative impact on cognitive functions such as attention, memory and concentration. Both affect sleep and the ability to study. Excessive drinking is as high a risk to health of abusers as drug addiction. Both can cause behavioural changes in the abuser leading to tendencies of violence.
Alcohol abuse among college students is rising for various reasons. The first is that drinking is socially acceptable in Goa. If parents can drink without any inhibitions at home, in restaurants and at parties, why cannot the sons and daughters? Owing to growing western cultural influences, parties, get-togethers and treats are quite common among students, and no party is seen to be complete without alcohol. To a number of college students, taking alcohol is also an inseparable part of growing up, a part of the overall college life. Young people who enter college explore many new aspects of their lives in personal realm. Smoking and drinking are seen by them as a part of their exploration. They start with the aim of satisfying their curiosity – how does hard drink taste? – Some under peer pressure, others just to copy what they saw their fathers or mothers doing.
Some other factors driving college students to alcohol include stress owing to the new demands. College study makes heavy demands on the time, attention and spirit of students. The competition among students in a college is at a much more complex and higher level than among students in a school. To the college demands are added parents’ expectations, increasing the levels of anxiety and stress among students. The college is also the time for sexual explorations and that adds to the anxiety and stress, driving students to the shelter of stimulants without any calculation of risks.
What we are trying to emphasise here is that the South Goa collector should widen the scope of her awareness programme to include both alcohol and drugs. In as much as either is taken for stimulation and intoxication and in as much as either can cause temporary and long-term impairments to the cognitive functions, ability to study and ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships and inflict damages on physical health, both should be treated at par and not as lesser or higher risk. After all, the noble idea behind her programme is to save college students from falling prey to addiction resulting in poor academic performance. The fact that Sehrawat’s one-hour awareness programme at every college in her district will also include guidance on careers suggests that her primary concern is academic performance, because without academic excellence no student can expect a good career. It is important for Sehrawat to be advised here that one hour will not be enough to create awareness. We cannot make students already addicted to alcohol or drugs or both give up the habit at the end of one hour of sermon. In fact, if it is going to be just a one-hour sermon it is not going to work, for the youth hate sermons.
Sehrawat’s programme, we assume, would be a continuing one and not for the first and last one hour, as it happens with most initiatives taken by top officers; the successor takes no interest in the predecessor’s programme, and all is forgotten. Nevertheless, even though her first visit to every college will be of one hour, she could do a few things that might help more than a sermon would. She could carry a video presentation on the ill effects on the physical and mental health of alcohol and drug abuser, a presentation which makes a strong and convincing scientific plea why no one should fall prey to intoxicants as it destroys one’s life. The police officials accompanying Sehrawat can explain how they have spread their net wide to catch anyone selling or buying narcotic drugs and anyone driving drunk – this to instill fear in the minds of students that they could get caught if they indulge in alcohol and drug abuse. Maybe these could be good starting points.