DHAKA: The head of Association for the Prevention of Drug Abuse (MANAS), Arup Ratan Chaudhury, an estimated more than 2.5 million children were drug addicts in Bangladesh.
Street children, who are said to number 3.4 million, are the primary targets of drug dealers.
The Bangladesh Children Rights Forum (BSAF) also estimated that 85 per cent street children in the country are suffering from drug abuse.
The Dhaka-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) said 19 per cent of such children use heroin, while 28 per cent took tablets and another 8 per cent injected drugs.
Cannabis, heroin, stimulant or sleeping pills, glue and gasoline sniffing are popular among such children in Bangladesh, the BSAF added.
According to the Department of Narcotics Control, children aged 8 to 10 were taking cannabis, cigarettes and glue sniffing while children aged between 12 and 18 were using phensedyl – a compound found in commonly used cough syrups – and heroin.
Ya ba pills are also quite popular among children of the middle class or higher-middle class backgrounds, it said.
Moreover, around 77 per cent of drug abusers are young people aged between 16 and 35 while approximately 20 per cent of current drug addicts in Bangladesh are women, it added.
Apart from Marijuana and heroin, phensedyl, Yaba recreational pills and other locally produced drugs are also freely available.
The one other thing common between children and the young adults is that they all dream of getting back to a “normal life”.
Inadequate rehabilitation centres
Furthermore, there are not enough drug treatment and rehabilitation centres in Dhaka. Some of the NGOs have stepped in to help but they all say that the government needs to do a lot more to tackle the monumental social problem.
Nabila Tarannum Khan, chief consultant and clinical Psychologist at the Cabin – a Thailand – based group that works for treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts, urged the government to launch a comprehensive campaign that includes public and private organizations, schools, universities and the civil society.
Sultana Jannat Shikha of the Bidyanondo Foundation that is involved in the education of street children pointed out the government’s reluctance in saving the children from drug abuse.
In the capital, there are some syndicates who control the street children to meet their own interests and use them for illegal drug business and begging, Shikha said.
We often face difficulties from syndicates whenever we try to save the street-children, she added.
Bangladesh Department of Narcotic Control Director General Mohammad Jamal-ud-din Ahmed told Anadolu Agency drug abuse had been on the rise in Bangladesh since early 2000.
Ahmed said there were four state-sponsored drug rehab centres and 218 privately-operated rehab centres.
He said the government intends to launch a campaign against drug abuse among children “very soon”.