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October 5, 2003 

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Drug addiction undermines youth in northern Bangladesh 

Ataur Rahman

Rana gave his family some golden moments to cherish. The family distributed sweets after he obtained ‘‘star marks" both in SSC and HSC examinations. The family's hopes were high when he opted for studying business administration or BBA.

That was until a couple of years ago when the parents noticed something strange about their talented son. Rana began coming home late and missing classes. He started spending more time with some jobless youths than with books. The parents were shocked to learn one day that their most trusted son had found him in the wrong company and taken to drugs.

Rana's family could afford his study abroad and so he was sent to Bangalore in India. This was intended to keep him away from his drug addict friends and bring his attention back to books. It did not work. After just one year, Rana had come back home and his condition deteriorated. He also returned to his bad friends and began stealing money from the family to buy drugs.

Unable to control him, Rana's family even tried to lock him in. Confined to his room, the young man tried to kill himself at least twice. Alarmed by his condition, the family took him to a clinic that treats drug addiction. At 22, Rana committed suicide there.

‘‘I've lost my best friend," says Rana's closest friend Shafiul Alam Bakul. Bakul witnesses how his friend destroyed himself despite being a bright student. According to him, Rana started taking phynsidyl with friends for the sake of fun. ‘‘But he did not stop there. Rana gradually became addicted to more harmful drugs such as heroin," says Bakul. During this period, Rana stopped attending classes and steal money from his family to buy drugs. He was expelled from his college after the authorities came to know his drug addiction. Rana's 40-year-old mother believes she was too young to see the death of her son.

Drug addiction has killed many young people like Rana and shattered the dreams of their families in northern Bangladesh. A recent survey says that drugs claimed at least 4,000 lives in this region in past 15 years, about 80 percent of them were young people. In last one decade, desperate parents handed to police at least 1520 children for severe drug addiction, according to the survey by a drug treatment medical centre and a NGO named, (Shotto) Reality.

The survey has revealed some alarming statistics. It says that nearly 120,000 people in Rajshahi division are regular drug addicts. And at least 12,000 people are involved in illicit drug trafficking in the region bordering on India.

Says a local resident, ‘‘ganja is the widely used and easily available drug in the area. They usually start with phensydil and then take all kinds of drugs, including heroin. Drug addiction is also growing among young girls."A single drug addict spends from Tk. 1,200 to Tk. 12,000 on drugs a month and many of the addicts are from rich families.

Zahurul Alam, a Rajshahi University student, says he believes that at least 5,000 university students in Rajshahi division are drug addicts. He says drug addiction begins mostly in college.

Another study has found that drug addiction has increased along the frontier districts. It says at least 1,500 people died from drug addiction in past five years in the north-western frontier districts.

Says Abdul Barek Khan, an anti-drug activist in Bogra, "Government authorities are doing nothing to stop drug trafficking in this frontier region. And this is one of the reasons why drug addiction is increasing."

- NewsNetwork.

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