Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - About 28 per cent of Nepali students take drugs, this according to a report by the Narcotic Drugs Control Law Enforcement Unit based on the testimony of young users and dealers. The problem, which seems to affect mostly the Hindu majority, has increased by 3 per cent in the last decade.
Riken (who prefers not to give his full name) is 22 years old and up to three months ago, he was studying in college. "I came to drugs through my friends," he told AsiaNews. "I thought I'd try it once and then stop, but I couldn't stop."
When his professors found out, they had him expelled from the university. Now Riken is taking part in a drug rehabilitation programme at the Mukti Kendra Rehabilitation Centre in Kathmandu.
Like him, almost a third of young Nepalis have fallen into this nightmare. For many psychologists, the problem is due to the absence of important role models during their teenage years, both at school and in the family.
"Young people in Nepal are often left on their own," Thapa, a volunteer at a rehabilitation centre, told AsiaNews. "The much smaller Christian community is less affected by this problem because families are more tightly knit," said the woman who has spent the past 20 years helping addicts. "This gives parents greater control over their children."
In 2000, then Health Minister Ram Baran Yadav opened a rehabilitation centre run by the Maryknoll Missionary Fathers and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.
In recent years, many Christian and Catholic volunteer groups have set up centres around the country to help rehabilitate drug abusers. Many young Hindus work as volunteers in such facilities.
According to Nepal's security and intelligence agencies, the rise in drug abuse, with 70,000 known addicts, has been mirrored by a parallel increase in the crime rate.