Shakir Reshamwala

According to a report this week, nearly a fifth of all students in Kuwait have experimented with drugs. The Director of Drugs Control General Department Brig Bader Al-Ghadouri said in a statement that 18.6 percent of the 22,434 public and private school students surveyed recently have abused drugs. Meanwhile, drugs-related deaths increased to 116 in 2018 after 68 such cases were recorded in 2017.

These are shocking figures. Even if only a portion of them get hooked, the fact that so many schoolchildren have dabbled with narcotics is very disturbing. The statistics also raise some troubling questions. Firstly, how can thousands of students get access to drugs so easily? It’s not as if drug pushers are lurking on every street corner or dark alley. This means some students have contacts with clandestine networks and dealers, and through them other students procure drugs.

Secondly, when it comes to money, we all know students don’t have much of it. So from where do they get the cash to feed this expensive habit? Once their pocket money runs out, addicts have no option but to steal from their parents and friends or resort to petty crime. Thirdly, the report reveals a degradation of the social, familial and moral fabric. Most parents in the country – both Kuwaiti and expat – have fulltime jobs, resulting in delegating the upbringing of children to maids, nannies or preschools and nurseries.

Deprived of a loving environment at home, many children seek approval from their peers. If they keep bad company, they can easily be sucked into a whorl of addiction and thievery. This has a domino effect – the students’ grades suffer and they may even drop out of school. Even if they manage to keep out of trouble and don’t run afoul of the law, the lack of a proper education will hamper them for the rest of their lives, trapping them in a vicious quagmire of depression, poverty and low self-esteem.

Kuwait is a conservative society, and issues like drug addiction are not usually spoken about openly. Having an addict in the family is a source of shame, which may lead to a reluctance in seeking help. Rehab options are also few. Moreover, expat families fear that instead of their addict children being viewed as victims, they may be treated as criminals, especially if anti-social behavior is involved. This can lead to a summary deportation, further breaking apart an already shattered family.

The report should be a wakeup call for all stakeholders in the fight against abuse of drugs – parents, teachers and the authorities. Children should be made aware of the dangers of drugs and the importance of focusing on their education. Instead of parking them in front of a screen or leaving them to their devices – both literally and figuratively – parents should encourage their kids to pursue extracurricular activities and hobbies that keep them constructively engaged and develop their talents. An idle mind is indeed the devil’s workshop. We all have to save our children from the scourge of drugs before it’s too late.

By Shakir Reshamwala