Hyderabad: When 10-year-old Mohd. Umar first inhaled a whitener fluid off a piece of paper in the company of his friends, little did he know what he was getting into. Same is the case with nine-year-old Sadiq and 20-year-old Syed Fasi. The trio are among hundreds of such boys addicted to whiteners in the Old City. Whitener is a white fluid containing organic solvents, used to erase errors in handwritten or printed papers. The police in coordination with Hope Trust, an NGO, on Tuesday organised a campaign, Say No To Drugs, to lend a helping hand to the likes of Umar. Around 67 boys and youngsters attended the event where they shared their stories and got tips from counsellors to shake off the habit.
The reasons behind their addiction range from poverty to domestic disharmony. “I was not happy with my life and disgusted with the poverty. It was some kind of an escape. I can’t spend money on alcohol. Whitener on the other hand comes for just Rs 20 or something,” explained Syed Fasi. His friend, who wished to remain anonymous, confessed that he had even resorted to pick-pocketing and stealing to get money for whiteners. It’s not as if all is lost. Children like Sadiq have turned a new leaf. The nine-year-old has stopped inhaling whiteners and is set to go back to school. In fact, he helps others too in getting rid of the habit.
Explaining the rationale behind the campaign, Y Shyam Babu, inspector, Charminar police station, said a lot of poor people from slums in the Old City are getting into the habit due to various reasons. The programme was held to explain to them the ill-effects of drugs and their fall-out on families, he added.
Whitener is a white fluid containing organic solvents, used to erase errors in handwritten or printed papers.
Gideon, an addiction therapist from the Hope Trust, said it was common to see even 7-year-olds inhaling whiteners in the Old City. “We don’t have exact numbers but at least 1500 people from slums are into drugs and the number is fast multiplying,” he said.
The business of drugs is directly proportional to the extent of addiction in the society. According to police, touts sell whiteners and other cheap drugs which normally cost around Rs 20-25 at different rates to different addicts. If the craving is unbearable in a particular addict, the men take advantage and sell it for a few hundred bucks. “This campaign is more like a proactive step from the police so that these people do not fall victims, and start stealing or pick-pocketing,” said, Y Shyam Babu.
Hope Trust will now conduct counseling sessions every Tuesday from 11 am to 1 pm for addicts, and also for the general public. “This is like a disease. People don’t think of alchohol addiction as drug abuse, but it is. According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2 out of 10 people are drug addicts,” pointed out Rajeshwari Luther, Director, Hope Trust.
Shaheen, a mother of an infant, residing near Charminar is tired of watching her husband sniff the white substance, and hence decided to attend the counseling programme. “I will do my best to dissuade him,” she said with hope.
Although this does not fall under drug abuse directly, police said that this was an increasing and disturbing menace. Whiteners can trigger asthma and causes dizziness, confusion, depression, headache, hallucinations, seizures, vision and other problems. “Long-term consumption may result in kidney and liver damage. This addiction is as bad as alchohol addiction,” said one of the counselors.