Prof. Vishal Rao Warns of the Dangerous Link Between Early Tobacco Use and Substance Abuse
Drug abuse is a severe public health problem that affects almost every community in some way. Each year, drug abuse takes away millions of young lives due to severe illnesses or injuries. As per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, some children are already using drugs at the age 12 or 13. According to Prof. Vishal Rao, Head and Neck Oncologist and Member of Karnataka Government’s High Power Committee on Tobacco Control, early abuse often includes substances such as tobacco, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, and prescription drugs such as sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medicines.
The Dangerous Gateway Effect of Tobacco Use
“The earlier a person uses tobacco, the more likely they are to experiment with cocaine, heroin, or other illicit drugs,” Prof. Rao said.
It is important to mention that smoking tobacco products can cause up to 18 different kinds of cancer and almost half the cancer cases in India are due to tobacco consumption. “Tobacco consumption is the gateway to Illegal drug use as it contains nicotine, an ingredient that can lead to addiction, and it is a significant predictor of both the possibility and the frequency of other drug use. Drugs are illegal and not easily available, however, the usual pattern of drug abuse is through chewing tobacco (gutka and khaini) mixed with other drugs as adulterants, followed by beedis and cigarettes,” he said.
Raising Awareness to Combat Drug Abuse
It is essential to share facts about drug abuse to make people aware of the harmful effects and the health risks associated with it. There is a strong need to strengthen and intensify efforts, especially targeting the youth population, to prevent death and diseases among this productive age group.
“The youth should engage more against drug abuse and address tobacco to prevent drug addiction. International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking offers an opportunity to reimagine public health and strive toward a drug-free environment that will be healthier and more prosperous.”