Getting higher – Number of Kachin youth using illegal drugs is rising

Chiang Mai - Ah Too hoped he would strike it rich as a gold miner. But, instead, the 24 tear old from Kachin State has found himself struggling in the depths of a heroin addiction, which uses up all his hard earned money.

“I’ve been using heroin for almost 10 years,” he said in a recent interview.

Drug use among young males is on the rise in Kachin State, according to a recent study. Photo - Kachin News Group.“There is no limit to what I will spend on it. If I have money, I will spend it all on it. If I can’t find heroin for a day, I will do anything to get it.”
A recent study by The Kachin Drug Watch shows his story is part of a larger one chronicling an increase in the use of illegal drugs by young boys 14 to 25, in northern Kachin state.

“The reason for the increase in drug abuse in Kachin state is partly due to unemployment,” Saji, from Kachin Drug Watch said in an interview.

“Young people feel they have no opportunities to fulfill their dreams for the future.”

A Christian pastor in, Myit- Kyi- Na, capital of Kachin State said in an interview illicit drugs are readily available in many areas and many unemployed and idle youth have experimented with drugs, but, find it difficult to stop using them.

The study also shows some addicted young students ask their parents for money they say will be used to pay school fees, but, then spend the money on drugs.

Others steal or even sell items from their own homes to buy them.

"If I can’t find heroin for a day, I will do anything to get it."
Ah Too - 24 year old Kachin addict
“For instance, hey will sell an item worth a thousand Kyats for a hundred, to get money, or sell something worth 100,000 Kyats for a thousand in the market. If they can’t find anything valuable to sell, they will pawn their parent’s farms and land,” Saji said.

The increase in addictions in Kachin State has given rise to an increase in crimes such as theft and robberies, as addicts try to satisfy their thirst for drugs.

Kachin Drug watch also found many addicts are using heroin as drugs are being imported from neighboring Shan State and the Sino-Burma border.

The report acknowledges authorities have taken some steps to curb illegal drug use, but says those actions have failed because of rampant corruption.

It says local people are concerned ineffective measures to solve the problem make it easier for traffickers to make drugs available to addicts.

Local non-governmental organizations are trying to work to reduce illegal drug use. But, one representative said all they can do is educate the public about the problems and issues caused by addiction.

A pastor said the situation has led to the breakup of families and some parents and elders have died because of the constant worry and mental stress caused by drug use of young family members.

One mother spoke of her attempts to help her son get off drugs in an interview.

“I’ve spent a lot of money to make him quit the drugs, but, I was not successful,” she said.

“Now, I have given up. I don’t want to see him anymore. I feel so much pain for him.”
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