Escaping ourselves | Pakistan Today

Escaping ourselves

  • Drug addiction as a temporary escape from our frustrations, uncertainties and all-engulfing ennui

To escape from the mundane, dull, boring, soul crushing, life-draining reality has been an endless quest of humanity. We started off by concocting and telling each other stories that added a little enchantment and magic to our precarious existences. Since then, to escape ‘all there is’ serious business to mankind. If meditation, ritual, belief, and imagination aided us to feel something beyond; drugs and alcohol helped us experience what we would have never felt in our conscious state of mind.

Choose your poison and let it kill you slowly, goes the saying. An escape from all that surrounds us is a persistent craving that pushes us to seek refuge in things that relieve boredom, people we love intensely, stories we weave, fantasies we dwell in and drugs that get us high before relegating us to the gallows.

Beyond the highs and the lows, beyond the Eden and frustration, beyond the buzz and the withdrawal there lies a land where all addicts eventually end up. Feeling betrayed by society, drained of all ambitions and dreams, hell-bent to lose their present thoughts and past demons, an addict seeks refuge in the vicious cycle that perpetuates itself sans an end. It ends, in most cases, with the demise of its prey.

Cocaine, heroin, marijuana, LSD, mushrooms and other substances are staples for those who are in the business of getting high. The extraordinary popularity of party drugs like ecstasy in recent years along with the rise in use of marijuana by people of all strata has inundated the entire country with folks who want to remain high till they die or wither away.

There are individuals who have undergone multiple treatments and once freed from the controlled environment reverted back to drugs. The relapse rate of heroin addicts, according to a study conducted by Ayub Medical College few years back with a sample size of 100 heroin addicts, is more than 77 per cent.

 The indifference of the government in general and drug control agencies in particular can be gauged by the fact that last time government released a survey report documenting the drug use in Pakistan was back in 2013; it put the number of heroin addicts alone at around 3 million. While, according to various independent surveys of local and international NGOs, a whopping 5 to 9 million individuals use various drugs in Pakistan.

Another startling statistic enough to put the whole state apparatus to shame is that according to a recent news report published in an English daily there are only four federally-administered drug rehabilitation centers in the entire country. And no prize for guessing who benefits from the paucity of government rehabilitation centers.

The right answer is privately owned drug rehabilitation centers whose steady income is in no peril of decline. A huge number of drug addicts fall into the category of ‘repeat clients’, as they’ve been to rehabs multiple times. There are individuals who have undergone multiple treatments and once freed from the controlled environment reverted back to drugs. The relapse rate of heroin addicts, according to a study conducted by Ayub Medical College few years back with a sample size of 100 heroin addicts, is more than 77 per cent.

In the absence of political will, many of these rehabilitation centers take full benefit of poor governmental regulations, lack of checks and balances by concerned governmental bodies, and a near absence of rehabilitation facilities at government hospitals. The state has outsourced the most vulnerable segment of society to the money minting machines in entirety.

Many believe that the roots of the present day drug epidemic can be traced back to early 1980s during the Afghan war. The number of heroin addicts skyrocketed during that era. And since there is no running away from geography, being the immediate neighbours of Afghanistan- the largest producer of heroin in the world- came with a price we pay dearly and continue to till this day.

We can pin down the reasons why an individual becomes a drug addict to countless factors ranging from breakdown of societal norms, bad company, easy availability of drugs, curiosity, and urge to experiment to satisfy the need for momentary solace through substance abuse.

What we often miss out, however, is the psychological toll it exacts on lives of family of addicts. Every now and then, the newspapers carry stories about bodies of drug addicts found in the streams that are taken to Edhi centers afterwards. The families of missing addicts throng these centers looking for their loved ones. If it is their son, the search ends. If it is someone else’s, their wait continues.

If the lows and losses of drug addiction imperil the lives of the individual concerned on the one hand, on the other hand society suffers as the pangs and pain of its viable, productive individuals cripple it. Are we waiting for a superman? Well, there isn’t one coming. The resolve is conspicuous by its absence. The way forward is blurry. The suffering is all pervasive.

And all is rotten in the world we live, so we escape from not only our surroundings but ourselves.



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