Islamabad - Javed, a 17-year-old student, currently enrolled in a prestigious school in Islamabad, started smoking weed at the age of 14 as a way to kill time outside his academy in F-8.

Since then he has tried almost every drug available in the market. He has been in and out of rehabs but ends up relapsing after a couple of weeks. He is fighting a battle within, at a raw age when he should have been writing essays for college applications. Instead, he is waiting for his local dealer to drop his ‘stuff’ outside a local hospital. 

Islamabad, the capital city of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, might look like a picturesque, quaint city but what goes on behind the tall walls of its elite institutions is not a secret.

Inside the gates of these well-guarded schools are resourceful children belonging to well-established families, aiming to maintain a westernized elite high school culture where drugs, alcohol and parties are a cultural norm legalized through school events.

The scent of expensive perfume and the sound of their latest Iphones surround these youngsters. They might speak in an almost foreign accent and step out of their shiny new cars, but the darkness that these teenagers are carrying with them is spreading like a wildfire. 

Hard drugs are being consumed like candy in the capital. Gone are the days when drug addicts were found crouching in dark alleys. This new generation of sophisticated drug users belongs to expensive private schools, huffing and puffing in or near dainty cafes in F7 and tripping on concerts.

Drugs like the weed, cocaine, Ice (Meth) and even heroin are regularly used by the teenagers as low as the age of 8, most of which are being consumed through cigarettes.

Apart from opium and cannabis, recent surveys point to an increasing supply of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), cocaine and ecstasy which are high in demand between the elite circles of the capital city.

Moreover, a largely unregulated network of medical stores and pharmaceutical industry has led to the increasing distribution of controlled substances, mainly painkillers and sedatives since they rarely comply with full legal requirements of licensing, prescription checking and documentation.

The abuse of prescription drugs, especially the misuse of tranquilizers along with substances such as methaqualone is very common. Peer pressure and other psychological factors play a significant role in determining substance abuse amongst young adults, unable to cope with exam stress and teenage heartbreaks. Furthermore, the traditional use of drugs involving the use of gutka, opium, and heroin is common among the lower working class people like drivers and guards, who then go on to sell these drugs to children looking for an easy dose to get high.

Hash (Charas) is the most easily accessible drug, with a very high demand and is as cheap as Rs 66 per joint. It has recently been observed that Ice (or, meth) is becoming seemingly popular amongst teenagers and cost around Rs 1500-2500; smuggled ecstasy which costs Rs 3000 per pill; cocaine worth 10-12 thousand per gram and the deadliest of all, heroin costs a mere Rs 500 per gram. 

To attract new customers, these dealers not only give huge discounts but also sell drugs on credit and provide cheap samples of deadlier drugs to get users addicted, thus becoming regular customers. Lower staffs of famous restaurants, drivers, shopkeepers, even sports teachers are selling drugs. 

It is a very challenging task for parents to keep their children away from these drug peddlers. The idea of smoking up, getting high, and thus being ‘cool’ plays a significant role in brainwashing these kids to believe that this is not harmful at all.

Every sector in Islamabad has its dealer, who is just a call away; all you need is the contact details of a dealer and a reference to purchase the drugs. Notorious areas involved in drug peddling include the G sectors where one can even find empty alcohol bottles disposed off on the streets, drugs being sold outside mosques; E-11 and the surrounding deserted area,; French colony in F7; slums around the city; F-10 parking area and the adjoining park, F-8 Markaz and the rear side of Beverly Centre in blue area where crates of beer cans can be seen being exchanged on the roads regularly.

Shah, a 21-year-old student of one of the international program affiliate institute in Islamabad, said, “It’s a tradition to smoke up your first joint as soon as you enter O/A levels since it is considered to be a fashion statement as important as carrying the latest model phone.”

Pills are strongest they’ve been in a decade. Concerts and DJ nights at sports festival and even farewell and graduation parties at private institutes are frequent events where most of the kids are introduced to these drugs for the first time.

The other more experienced half finds a comfortable place to enjoy their buzz in. Despite regular security teams present at these events, students manage to get their pills, powders, cigarettes and even alcohol inside, concealed in water bottles, snapbacks and even tampons.

The raves at farmhouses in Bani Gala and Chak Shahzad are other places where the trend of popping pills and tripping on psychedelic beats is a regular occurrence. Teenagers as young as 15 and 16 are in fact hosting such raves and consuming drugs such as LSD from Peshawar and smuggled ecstasy.

Ahmad Waqqas, a criminal lawyer in Islamabad, says that a major reason contributing to the increasing drug abuse is the alarmingly low conviction rate of drug abusers and peddlers who encourage more people to get involved in this trade due to no fear of arrests.

Asma, a mother of two young adult boys, says that “Ever since my oldest son got addicted, my own mental and physical health has been severely affected and my marriage has been facing terrible turbulence due to the grave stress that comes along with a child addicted to drugs.”

“My son’s bad habit not only destroyed his future but also the future and mental health of my younger son since he got severely traumatized by his elder brother’s violently erratic behavior,” the distraught mother said. “If only I would have known about his involvement in substance abuse, I might have been able to save him,” she said, in a rueful manner.

(The writer is a freelance contributor)