Here in Myanmar, we usually say that life has three phases; one to earn knowledge, one to earn wealth and one to find peace before we inevitably kick the bucket.
We have all been young once so we fully understand the alluring seduction of curiosity of the children since everything is new to them. It is with what we do with the curiosity and where our decision takes us that shape how we look, how we think and how we communicate with the rest of the world.
It is during that time that youths require most care and guidance.
While it should be no surprise, even logical, that narcotics and curious youths are inextricably entwined due to their nature, it should always be alarming. Whether it’d be a so called “recreational” drug like Marijuana or the more “hardcore” drug such as Cocaine, Opium or Heroin, every single one of them results in altering the state of mind and harms the body as well as causing mental and physical addiction.
Taking a look at the drugs and other substance abuse rampant in the country, one will find that there are the hard drugs such as Heroin, Morphine and Cocaine which suppresses the central nervous system and softer substances such as Marijuana, Alcohol, Cigarettes and other synthetic items.
However, the well-known stigma of being the “gateway” drug so often described to Marijuana should actually be awarded to Cigarettes as the numbers of youths smoking are increasing day by day.
A cigarette’s ingredients include Cadmium commonly found in batteries, Stearic Acid found in wax candles, industrial use solvent called Toluene, Nicotine found in insecticides, Ammonia found in toilet washing liquids, Butane Gas, Acetic Acid, Methane Gas, Arsenic, Carbon Monoxide, Methanol and paints.
Research have shown that on average, one out of six people die from smoking and that around 400 of the ingredients used in cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products may harm the body.
One puff of smoke narrows the windpipe and the veins, makes the heartbeat faster, increases blood pressure, obstructs oxygen absorbing of body tissues and those are just the immediate effects. Long term addiction highly increases chances of cancer to oral cavity, neck, lungs, cheek and legs as well as other chronic conditions such as Tuberculosis.
Likewise, methamphetamine tablets that are extremely popular among many youths as consumption of the tablets provide quick solutions to satisfy their immediate needs of curiosity, alertness, attentiveness as well as a quick way to shed some weight as such mind altering drugs suppresses the desire to eat. Energy drinks, energy candies as well as instant coffees designed to give a rush of energy are extremely popular as well.
The short term benefits of such “mind elevating” drugs and related items are keeping the central nervous system on alert as well as letting the user experience the illusion of body and mind being healthy, having a happy mood, curing fatigue and hunger, able to stay awake without sleep, energetic as well as feeling smarter.
However, the repercussions are numerous and life threatening. Long term addicts experience lack of will to eat, extreme mood swings, increase in blood pressure, liver damage, migraines, restlessness, hallucinations, more violence prone, risk of Rheumatic Fever, heart attack and insanity.
Such is the case of the youths of today who regularly abuses such substances and it begs the question; Why?
Is curiosity the culprit? Is peer pressure to blame? Are they learning from wrong examples?
Whatever it is, the situation is only getting worse as according to data from rehab centers, teenagers are increasingly become addicts.
In Myanmar, there are 26 major rehab centers and 47 smaller clinics with a total of 73 rehab centers around the country. There also are Methadone clinics that are in operation in order to reduce number of people who abuse heroin or other opioids; 11 clinics in Shan State, 11 clinics in Kachin, 8 clinics in Sagaing, 3 clinics in Mandalay and 2 clinics in Yangon State.
The government seems to be on the path towards solving the addiction problem; they enacted the a bill in 2014 that drastically increased the fees of obtaining a license for shops, restaurants and eateries to sell alcohol and cigarettes as well as other related items as well as stopping the permit of new licenses within Yangon State ever since 2013-2014 fiscal year.
Yangon state government also reported that from 2012 to 2014, over 7700 unlicensed shops were taken action against. However, the efficiency of the government’s hunt for unlicensed shops come into question when there are many shops, officially licensed and authorized by the government, are operating outside regulations.
According to the Drugs Enforcement Agency ( DEA), a total of 6414 narcotic related crimes occurred with 8055 males and 1133 females arrested.
However, the amount of arrests seems miniscule when compared against the record setting amount of drugs “found” and seized in 2015 within Yangon State which raised a storm of worry and criticism.
It all began in July of 2015 when a container truck was found in Mingaladon Township to be abandoned together with over Ks 133 billion worth of methamphetamine tablets (WY). Further investigations into the matter led to 0.15 million WY tablets bust in North Dagon Township as well as 600 thousand WY tablets and unprocessed 6x4 WY blocks in Thaketa Township.
According to the DEA, two entities were found to be linked towards the drugs; Kaladan Delta Development and Arakan Bay.
Min Khine, managing director of Kaladan Delta Development company, was arrested in Myawady Township on 15 September and interrogation of Min Khine revealed two more narcotic stashes; both in East Dagon Township, University Avenue Housing. The first raid on 21 September yielded Ks 10 billion worth of narcotics while another raid on 26 September resulted in confiscation of over Ks 19 billion worth.
No perpetrator was ever present in the scene of the drug raids.
According to the police, many of those involved are still at large and pictures of the 12 people who have yet to be found have been distributed to every police stations and hotels in the country.
It certainly is an extremely dangerous situation for the youth; students and young adults can be likened as walking on a tight rope, surrounded by life threatening danger. While most things in life certainly can be viewed in a morally grey world view filter, the answer is clear as black and white; it is best not to get involved when narcotics are concerned. A puff of curiosity may very well lead to a syringe full of pleasurable death.
For those struggling with addiction and affliction, it is best to seek professional help as soon as possible.
Only then our future generation will have the path of their lives light up to tread the treacherous uphill battle everyone in Myanmar have to struggle together.