News Karnataka
Tuesday, August 09 2022
Wellbeing

Illicit use of drug: Effect on pregnancy and other aspects of youth - 8 min read

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Narcotic Drugs sold on the streets are called as ‘Street Drugs’ and hence illegal throughout the world. But, ‘illegal pregnancy’? Can there be anything illegal about pregnancy?

In a male-dominated society, male fabricated religions, male dictated holy scriptures, women have been allocated only a secondary status. Her role has been circumscribed to that of a pleasure-giver and for childbearing, controlled and regulated through the institution of marriage. 

But Nature cannot be restrained by man-made laws and customs. The onset of puberty in both boys and girls is Nature’s certification that they are ready for procreation. In the olden days, societies across the world accepted Nature’s decree, and immediately upon attainment of puberty, girls were married off to commence the task of childbearing. But, a major disruption in this arrangement was that human societies were constantly fighting with each other. Battles, wars, and invasions have been a constant feature of human civilizations. Girls were prized war trophies and war booties as she was capable of giving sexual pleasure. As a result, women were subjected to multiple rapes, sexual slavery in harems as concubines, and as mistresses. Since women were unable to restrain their child-bearing process, this sort of forced union has resulted in the present generation carrying a cocktail of genes. Today, there are no pure races anywhere in the world. However, during times of peace, the institution of marriage continues to be enforced stringently.

But Nature is no respecter of marriage ceremonies. Sexual pleasure and child-bearing happens even without any formal marriage ceremony. Crafty people overcame this problem by simply stamping the stigma of illegitimacy on children born to unmarried girls. (It is only in 2021 July, that the Karnataka High Court in a landmark judgement held that “there may be illegitimate parents but no illegitimate children because a child has no role to play in his or her birth.”- The Court also urged Parliament to bring a law on the legitimacy of children. (K Santhosha vs Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited.)

Rapid advancements in medical sciences have now made it possible to control and regulate human births. Thus, humans have successfully delinked sexual pleasure from procreation. A popular method of birth control is abortion. According to WHO, every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day. According to the first national study of the incidence of abortion and unintended pregnancy in India, an estimated 15.6 million abortions were performed in the country in 2015. This translates to an abortion rate of 47 per 1,000 women aged 15–49. This study published in The Lancet Global Health—was conducted jointly by researchers at the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai; the Population Council, New Delhi; and the New York-based Guttmacher Institute. It means that in India, there is a lot of clandestine sexual activity happening outside the institution of marriage, and abortion is a preferred method to conceal and erase an unwanted pregnancy.

According to www.hli.org India has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. As of 2019, India’s abortion rate is on par with that of China. India has over twenty-one times the number of abortions than the nation’s government officially admits, and a new court ruling may triple that number. The Kerala High Court in a decision passed in April 2020 has held that “Noting the ‘difficult and disheartening situation’, the bench observed that the “right to make reproductive choices is a facet of personal liberty under Article 21.” Future abortion figures would throw light on the actual ground reality. Many unintended pregnancies are due to the prevailing drug culture among the youth. 

Youngsters are recklessly using all kinds of “street drugs” to enhance their sexual experience. Not only Cannabis but a range of hard-core drugs are being used by youngsters for enhancing pleasure. The majority of Cannabis users are young and of reproductive age. The surging demand for Cannabis is evidence of its huge popularity. In Karnataka, in 2019 for instance, the police seized 1,053 kg of Cannabis, but this spiked to 3,912 kg in 2020, an increase of 271 per cent in one year, making it the most peddled drug. According to Government data, out of the 4,475 cases registered in 2021, 4,275 were related only to the seizure of Cannabis or marijuana. Even in a small State like Kerala, the Excise officials seized 2,796.934 kgs of Cannabis in 2019, 3209.293 kgs in 2020, and in 2021 the figure touched 4982.9 kgs.

Cannabis enjoys a great reputation as an aphrodisiac. Its use is associated with improved sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, and overall satisfaction; hence it is very popular among youngsters. Though research in this field is very limited, it is generally believed that Cannabis use leads to improvement in sexual function simply by lowering stress and anxiety. Cannabis is also known to heighten sensations such as touch, smell, sight, taste, and hearing. Cannabis enhanced sexual intimacy is a big fad in America and Europe. In the USA many Cannabis strains are marketed like – LA Confidential, Amnesia Haze, Bubba Kush, Skywalker OG Kush, Zkittelz, Blueberry Lamsbread, G13, Cannatonic, Harlequin and Kosher Kush. Other high-energy marketed varieties are Green Crack, Cheese Quake, and Super Lemon Haze. Every year youngsters from India, especially Karnataka and Kerala are flocking to US universities in hordes, and these youngsters are getting exposed to strange ideas of sexual enjoyment. The few who return to India popularise such fads here which contribute to the zooming popularity and sales of Cannabis. Though many of the specialised strains sold in the American market are not available in India, drug peddlers are doing roaring business marketing Cannabis as an aphrodisiac. Many States are rapidly sliding into becoming Hedonistic societies, where, illicit street drugs, live-in relationships, wife-swapping, religious celibates indulging in clandestine sex, and flirting ladies entrapping politicians and bureaucrats, are all becoming routine headlines in newspapers.

Regardless of the mechanics at work between Cannabis and sex, emerging evidence is overwhelming that there’s some sort of relationship at play. Numerous online surveys in the USA have also reported positive associations between Cannabis and sex.

Although emerging research suggests that Cannabis use may enhance sexual function in women, the contrary may be true in men, with erectile dysfunction an issue among many users. In females, Cannabis use during pregnancy is associated, with significant reductions in infant gestational age at birth, birth weight and length, and head circumference, as well as increased frequency of severe neonatal morbidity. How cannabis might impair foetal growth is unclear, but the effect may be related to the carbon monoxide generated by smoking cannabis.

Almost every drug pass from the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta to the foetus. There are more than 400 active chemicals in cannabis, many of which cross the placenta to the baby. Cannabis contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other chemicals that affect the body. When Cannabis is smoked or eaten, these chemicals cross the placenta. The foetal brain is growing and developing during pregnancy, and these chemicals can affect the brain in adverse ways. This can lead to learning problems, difficulty focusing and behavioural problems such as increased aggression, beginning in young childhood.

There are also other risks to the pregnant mother resulting from the use of Cannabis. It can cause decreased blood pressure and increased heart rate, leading to dizziness and falls. Cannabis use can also increase the risk of anaemia, confusion and forgetfulness during pregnancy. The most common reasons why pregnant women in USA and Europe use marijuana are to treat morning sickness, lessen aches and pains and help with sleep disturbances. However, the risks to the baby and pregnant mother far outweigh the benefits.

The chemicals from cannabis can also pass into the breastmilk. These chemicals are stored in fat and are slowly released, so the baby can still be exposed even after the mother stops using Cannabis. As the infant brain continues to develop through the age of 3, there is certainly a risk of adverse consequences. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends against the use of Cannabis by breastfeeding mothers due to possible effects on the infant’s neurobehavioral development.

At this point, the data, though limited, suggests that Cannabis use during pregnancy is associated with elevated risk for miscarriages, birth defects, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. If in all abortion cases, mandatory drug-testing is made compulsory, then the exact percentage of use by girls can be estimated and remedial actions instituted.

When Drug Awareness programs are conducted in schools and colleges, special focus should be given to the harms caused by Cannabis and other drugs to the human body. Innumerable illicit drugs are sold on the streets in various names and forms, whose ingredients and chemical compositions are unknown. Consuming these drugs in the belief that they are aphrodisiacs is fraught with many dangers and unknown complications. Girls have to contend with not only illicit drug abuse, but also illicit sex and illicit pregnancy with the associated risk of giving birth to deformed children. These are life-long burdens to be carried, all because of chasing the mirage of enhanced pleasures by placing faith in unknown chemicals and strange plants.

Image source: Pexels, RenoBeranger 

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Dr G Shreekumar Menon

The author is a retired IRS officer, who is a Former Director General National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics, & Multi-Disciplinary School of Economic Intelligence India. He is also a Fellow of James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, USA, and Centre for International Trade & Security, University of Georgia, USA. A PhD in Narcotics, he has a Executive Program in Public Administration, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, U.S.A, and is a AOTS Scholar, Japan.

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