By Dr Susan Mathew
MUMBAI, NOV 4, 2015: The Don Bosco Research Centre's teacher training programme on substance abuse at the Provincial House on October 30, witnessed the participation of 70 teachers from various schools across the city. Dakshayani Madangopal, CEO, Don Bosco Research Centre (DBRC) highlighted the importance of the workshop, while Father Ajoy Fernandes, the Director, welcomed the participants.
Pre-workshop forms were distributed to teachers to assess their understanding about substance abuse. The first resource person for the day, Dr Atul Aswani, counsellor and psychiatrist at the Ivy Clinic in Mumbai, started the session by pointing out that 55,000 children in India are introduced daily to smoking and that 25 crore children and adolescents were likely to die of tobacco related diseases in the long term.
He touched upon the various types of substances, meaning of substance dependence, intoxication, tolerance, withdrawal including the life threatening symptoms of complicated withdrawal. Transition from the gateway drugs like alcohol and tobacco to becoming dependant on hard forms of drugs and usage of drug cocktail (a dangerous combination of one or more drugs) was made clear to the group.
Primacy of drug seeking behaviour, narrowing of the drug repertoire, increased tolerance to drug effects, loss of control over consumption and rapid reinstatement of previous patterns of drug use after abstinence was all part of the 'dependence syndrome.' Talking on why children use drugs, Dr Aswani reiterated the fact that attention seeking behaviour, environmental factors, peer pressure, genetic loading and learned helplessness contributed significantly. Transition times rendered the children more susceptible to the risk of substance abuse and teachers needed to be vigilant.
Teachers are the main stakeholders in the life of a child and are expected to take note of the signs and symptoms of children getting dependant on substances and help the child to come out of it, and also empower those children who are vulnerable to taking substances to say 'no'.
Some of the referral services in Mumbai were mentioned where the teachers could refer the children for professional help. Teachers also shared their experiences in dealing with some of the cases, challenges and also sought ways and means to address the issues at their work place.
The session on the role of teachers was handled by Swapnil Pange, student counsellor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Due to the risk factors like transition time, emotional and social challenges, pill taking society and brain not being fully formed, youngsters were vulnerable to substance addiction, and it was important to initiate talks about the ill-effects of substance abuse in homes as well as in schools before it was too late.
The various internal and external factors involved were highlighted. Protective factors such as self-acceptance, supportive family, saying no to drugs, caring relationship, obeying laws and avoidance of delinquent peers needed to be strengthened. Talking to parents, follow up for treatment, family counselling were some of the measures to address the issue.
He highlighted the role of school principals and counsellors in early intervention and prevention, collaboration with the local police, parents and treatment agencies and helping parents to develop effective parenting skills to deal with the issue. He stressed upon the role of life skill training and assertiveness training that would enable children to say "NO" to drugs. Before the conclusion of workshop, post training forms were filled by the teachers and certificates of participation were distributed.