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Hard Drugs and Asian People

Thursday, January 8th, 2009 Hard Drugs and Asian People

According to a BBC report (05 01 09) by Poonam Taneja concerning the growing number of Asians using class A drugs, in particular to women using the said drugs. This is borne out by by Asian drugs charity Nafas.

In relation to women, notably, ten years ago drug misuse amongst British Asian women was unheard of. At this point, it has been claimed by Nafas that they are treating between 20-25 females for heroin addiction per annum. It is also claimed that this is merely the tip of the ice-berg.

Taneja describes one of the patients using the pseudonym of Zarina and is 25 years old. She is fashionably dressed but alas is excruciatingly thin with eyes like saucers.

Taneja met Zarina near her home in Bethnel Green, East London. Zarina is both polite and articulate, although initially she is extremely nervous and is unable to sit still.

She admits to taking heroin when at only 14 years of age. She says, “From the first time I tried heroin, I liked it,”

She further adds that “Ever since then I’ve been an addict. The guy I was with, he knew all the local dealers. Where my school was, there were so many dealers hanging around. I didn’t know them, but I got to know them, because my boyfriend used to take me with him whenever he’d go to score.”

Such is her problem now, she has developed a £2,000 per week heroin and crack cocaine habit.

What is worrying back on the (16 01 07) Sangita Myska of the BBC established that second and third generation British Asians were using class A drugs.

One needs to seriously question who exactly is using and why?

With reference to Myska’s report, she met Naz, a a 26-year-old professional British Bangladeshi in a swanky central London bar.

He started using hard drugs as a teenager - cocaine and ecstasy being his drugs of choice.

But damage to his liver and kidneys means he has been forced to stop.

Another score and he could be dead.

Now he will only order a glass of water. He argues, his drug use is a consequence of British club culture. His ethnicity, he says, has nothing to do with it.

“I don’t think it’s about race - it’s about society as a whole,” he said.

“I took drugs because I enjoyed it. Wanted the experience. Drugs are easy to come by and cheap.

“As I say, last week I went out with my brothers and sisters. They took drugs and I couldn’t.

“I went home early. I suppose life is more boring but I guess it’ll turn out for the best.” This is a male perspective only.

From a female point of view and as Zarina indicates that she finances her habit through shoplifting alongside her boyfriend.

Hitherto, the manager of the Nafas drugs project in east London, Tohel Ahmed, said Asian girls hooked on drugs are particularly vulnerable.

He said: “We think this is the next big problem for the Asian community, these females. Many of them start young, and we’ve had 14, 15-year-olds. He further adds that the young girls start using because of their boyfriends. Some of them get tricked into using drugs and many of them are driven into prostitution to feed their habit.”

The problem is further compounded as a consequence of family honour or public image. It is therefore difficult to ascertain accurate, concise figures. Experts also agree that the problem is growing and extending to other Asian communities ie Birmingham, Bradford and Lancashire.

Baroness Pola Uddin, argues in relation to family honour, this prevents young Asian girls from seeking the help they need.

She says, “The stigma against substance misuse seems to be almost like the last taboo. We’ve got to take a very serious look and see what the level of problems is and where these girls are going for support.”

It is a view shared by Zarina. She thinks Asian girls are too scared to come forward for fear of violent reprisals.

Some of my friends who use drugs can’t walk down the street, in case their brothers see them. Some of them have been battered by their families for taking drugs,” she said.

Arguably, Mr Ahmed believes the situation is similar to that of Asian men 10 years ago, where the community was aware of the problem but reluctant to speak out or seek treatment for friends or family.

Meanwhile, after a three-week stay in prison, Zarina is trying to get clean. She wants her future to be heroin-free.

She said: “I’ve got a lot of Asian friends, four or five of them. Three of them are working girls and they inject heroin very heavily.

In conclusion, it has already been proved that ignoring the problem will not get a solution.

Furthermore, these young people are as desperate as any other drug user and are fundamentally entitled to a duty of care that facilitates recovery within a specific cultural approach. Irfan Azad who launched the Black and Asian Narcotics and Alcohol Service says: “White counsellors, when they see a user coming in they don’t see their backgrounds.

“They don’t understand the reasons they started. Family pressures, forced marriages, there are certain expectations on Asian people.

“Trying to explain that to people with no experience of these backgrounds is hard.

“That’s partly what we’re going to concentrate on - training counsellors - white, black or Asian to try to understand.”

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