Drug addiction is probably the fastest growing social problem in Bangladesh, if not the number one social problem already. It is equally widespread in the urban areas as well as the villages as millions of young men and women are falling prey to this deadly habit. Drugs not only destroy the life of an addict, but also the lives of his or her family members, friends and acquaintances. The multiplier effect of drug addiction is such that one individual can wreak havoc on an entire locality.
Multiply that threat by the multiplying number of addicts to get an idea about the snowballing impact. Crime and violence are largely rooted in this impact, as desperate people succumb to dangerous temptations to support their compulsive need. Many of the criminals are born in the urgency of sustaining their drug cravings.
Today, every family in the country is worried about protecting their children from the clutches of drug dealers as well as the company of drug users. Starting from the street children to the affluent members of the society, every section has its own choice of substance abuse depending on their affordability. We are talking about a supermarket where a variety of products are available for a variety of clients.
While men supposedly make 80 percent of the addicts, female users make the remaining 20 percent. Experts believe the percentage of women could be higher since most of them go unreported, as families try to avoid the stigma associated with it. According to some statistics, the number of female users is rising at an alarming rate. The case of a young girl named Oishee, who ruthlessly killed her parents under the influence of drugs, reminds us of the silent disaster that is knocking on our doors.
Social scientists have attributed the drug problem to a number of factors such as temptation for excitement, depression, parental divorce, failure in romantic relationship or marriage, peer pressure, despair and frustration over continuous failure at work, and economic insolvency. While these problems have always persisted on the family and social scenes, individuals are now more likely to seek escape in intoxicants than before. It could be because disintegrating family and social bonds are leaving individuals more exposed to fear and anxiety, leaving them with no choice but to cope with an altered state of consciousness.
As of now, Bangladesh has failed to devise an effective strategy to face the menace of this national crisis. We have NGOs working towards raising awareness and a number of rehabilitation centers to treat the drug addicts. But these initiatives prove futile when the supply of drugs remains undiminished. Every day we read about large hauls of Yaba or Phensedyl being seized by law-enforcement bodies. It is believed that what is intercepted is only the tip of the iceberg. The country is getting flooded with drugs, which is an indication of their growing demand amongst the population.
This leads us to a vicious circle. Social unrest drives drug habit, which drives social unrest. It is the age-old dilemma of which comes first between chicken and egg. But as a nation we should know which fight to pick instead of debating over when to pick. A UN survey says that Bangladesh currently has 6.5 million addicts, 1.3 million of them being women.
It means roughly 4 percent people of Bangladesh are using drugs compared to more than 10 percent in the United States. But our lower percentage should not bring us comfort because this number in future could go up by leaps and bounds. Given the high population density in this country, even one percentage increase in the number of drug addicts might significantly undermine social stability.