‘Have you heard? He was just 35 and he’s dead.’
The ‘he’ being spoken of is someone unknown to me but a close friend of some of my friends.
The story is sad nonetheless. But today, it’s the story of many others like him too.
Dating back to the early 1950s which is famously also referred to as the pre-rock’n’roll era (before the Beatles rose to fame), the rise of these sensational artists and celebrities also saw in tandem, the rise of the use of ‘Party Drugs’. By the 1960s, drugs like Marijuana and Heroin were on the rise, being epidemically consumed by college students, middle classes as well as celebrities and artists primarily in the United States until President Nixon declared the ‘War on Drugs’ and the Nixon administration started the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency).
I don’t want to delve further into facts and figures of the onset, efforts of eradication and other such measures to curb the war against drug use – it’s certainly a long history class! The point is, recreational drug use with the intention of inducing a state of pleasurable intoxication – a ‘high’ is a phenomena that started many decades ago and today has spread all over the world with troubling intensity and volume of intake.
A ‘high’ that is as fatal as it is pleasurable. A ‘high’ that has taken innumerable, invaluable human lives due to the addiction a person succumbs to and inevitably overdoses. And of course, since we are talking about overdose, we must also include excessive tobacco and alcohol consumption in the mix.
I ask you – Is it worth the damage? Do we not owe it to ourselves, our families, loved ones to be more responsible? To care just a little more about our existence?
The uncle who died because of excessive smoking, the friend who succumbed to cocaine overdose, the celebrity we mourned who was found dead in his/her apartment with drugs in their blood, the couple who had too much ‘bhang’ on Holi – the Indian festival of colors – and were found dead in their bathroom the next day. This is not a drugs and alcohol lecture, nor am I condemning the ways a person chooses to party. I just mean we need to be aware of what and how much of it we are putting into our systems and know when to quit before life decides to quit us.
According to a study in 2014, statistics have revealed an alarming 3.4 billion drug abuse victims in India of which, a mere 10% have registered themselves into rehabilitation facilities. The drug-related suicides were approximately 25,500 in the last decade. To put things into perspective – this means on an average seven suicides every day! And then there is the even scarier issue of the demographic that is using the most! The largest consumption of drugs is between 16 to 35 years of age. And I speak for all of us who have friends or family within this age group and have witnessed the addiction and consumption first hand – the damage can be irreparable, even fatal.
Don’t you think it is a bit hypocritical that on the one side we fight for life by protesting and revolutionizing against terrorism, violence, the unwarranted loss of life but on the other hand we are our own terrorists – only our weapons are different –excessive use of drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Is our life worth so little that we so nonchalantly allow it to be put at grave risk in the name of ‘enjoyment’?
I know that a chain smoker, an alcoholic or a ‘druggee’ will probably just skim through this article in a second, roll her/his eyes and move on. And THAT is where the trouble lies. An addict is a lost cause on her own, we know that. But we are the family, the friends, and loved ones who need to care enough to make them realize that they are just a car accident or that one extra dose away from meeting their creator – much before their time. Why does ‘peer pressure’ have to be a negative thing? Why can’t we say, hey, that guy is in rehab now and on the mend because of ‘peer pressure’?
A couple of years ago, the city of Chandigarh was stunned by a fatal car accident induced by driving under the influence of alcohol that took the lives of three young boys who had just graduated from college and were celebrating the new jobs they had procured. Three others were severely injured. They were someone’s sons, brothers, grandsons, friends and they were now dead. Just like that. Even though the administration tightened the reigns by increased police checks and breathalyzer tests, such cases continue to pile up and people just don’t seem to learn. A gentleman who was a close family friend died two years back due to excessive smoking every single day of his adult life till his lungs finally gave in. Recent news talks about a thirty- something man who was found dead of a heart attack as a result of drug addiction.
These are just some examples but imagine how many more stories are out there. There was also the young student back in March in Brazil who died after necking 25 shots in 60 seconds in a drinking game challenge. And sadly in recent years, drugs have also become a ‘bane’ in the existence of clean and efficient sports, politics and many other pertinent avenues that we rely on to march our country on the path towards progress and great triumphs.
Anything in excess is always bad and we know that, but till we don’t learn to appreciate our own lives and what they are worth, we may not fully understand till it’s too late – that the only true ‘high’ we need is that of ‘life’ and staying alive long enough to tell our grandchildren all about it!