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April 2007
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Muslim Perspective

Drugs - The Road to Disaster
By M. Hanif Lakdawala



There is a steady rise in drug and alcohol abuse in Muslim managed colleges and among Muslim students.


• Rehman Khan 19, a Management undergraduate left home for the college and was untraceable for three days. He was found at one of the local train station in a semi- conscious state as he was intoxicated with drugs.

• Naeem Ansari, 18, a first year commerce student was forced to consume certain prescription drugs and was then sexually abused by the seniors. Today he has developed a complex that he is a gay.

• Nikhat Patel 19, second year Science student started consuming prescription drug, Spasmo proxyvon after a failed affair with her classmate. She expired last month because of kidney failure.


A recent survey by Islamic Voice in association with Trend Research and Analysis Centre (TRAC) revealed that there is a spurt in Muslim students taking to drugs and alcohol for various reasons.


College is a very exciting and thrilling time of change in a young adult’s life. Yet, it can also be a stressful period for students adjusting to what is likely their first extended period of time away from home. Students starting college life must adjust to a new schedule, new location, and the stress of building new friendships and relationships. Unfortunately, some students deal with these stresses by turning to drugs and alcohol.


Unfortunately parents and teachers do not understand the stress a student undergoes while adjusting to the college environment. Most of the time, parents are totally oblivious of this stress. Even teachers do not understand what goes in the mind of the student. According to the psychologist Ajit Joshi, peer pressure does play a role in students’ abuse of drugs and alcohol. Students adjusting to their new environment may feel pressured to participate in drinking or drug use if everyone else is doing so. Students attending college parties or other social gatherings who did not previously abuse these substances may face the challenge of being in the minority.


Meanwhile, the problem of drug and alcohol abuse is a trend that is steadily increasing even in Muslim managed colleges and among Muslim students. Many parents select Muslim managed colleges because of the religious environment. Unfortunately, many Muslim managed colleges are more concerned about the secular image, rather than the future of the Muslim students. College is a very exciting, and ideally enlightening experience for its students. It is important for the student and his parents to choose a college that has a history of encouraging academic and social development, as well as a safe campus and community.


In fact, many colleges including Muslim managed across the country are home to drug and alcohol abuse. It was reported that a number of traffickers operate around schools and colleges by cheating, forcing or giving free illicit drugs to students. Once the students are addicted, they then go to the traffickers to buy the illicit drugs. If they do not have money, they steal it from their family members or others.


Drug and alcohol abuse is not just a problem for the students who abuse these substances. The parents, teachers, room-mates, and friends of abusing students are also affected. Roommates may suffer the consequences of having to take care of a sick room mate, parents may be concerned about their child’s growing isolation, and teachers may see slipping grades or have to deal with students sleeping in class.


According to the TRAC survey, 13 per cent of Muslim students out of the sample of 142 respondents have abused stimulants. Combined with the numbers of students abusing other prescription drugs and illegal drugs, the issue becomes one of growing concern for the community.


One of the behavioral issues facing many Muslim parents with adolescents today is the high rate of drug and alcohol experimentation. Parents tend to avoid this behavioral and health issue more than any other when it comes to their teenagers. It is difficult for parents to face the idea that a child belonging to a Muslim family could be experimenting with mood-altering substances. The tendency to ignore signs and symptoms of substance abuse can delay treatment significantly. The longer you wait to deal with a teen who is experimenting with alcohol or drugs, the more intractable and serious the problem can become.


In fact, prevention is not always possible, but in some cases, intervention is. Friends and family of a student who may be abusing drugs or alcohol should learn to recognise the symptoms of abuse. The student may not realise he has a problem with abuse or is addicted to a particular substance. His personality and attitude may change, and he may become belligerent or refuse help. In these instances, recognising the symptoms is key to getting timely help before anything else of a more serious nature occurs.


Islam’s approach towards drug abuse is a psychological one. Treat first the body, then the mind, and then the soul. The biggest problem we have today is lack of taqwa (piety) and lack of fear of the hereafter. It is very essential that parents in the house and teachers in the class try to encourage people towards deen with motivation.


Help and support from family and friends can be the biggest factor, although a student who is abusing drugs or alcohol may not seem grateful at first. Down the line, people recovering from addiction will appreciate the help and intervention of family and friends. The hardest part for addicts is recognising the difficult truth. Again, however, recognising the symptoms and getting help as soon as possible are the keys to recovery and a better life.


(The writer can be reached at mhl@rediffmail.com)