Muslim Youth and Drugs: The Reality

.. teens don’t even have to actively seek drugs. Simply being in the wrong state of mind and feeling negatively about themselves, parents and environment can leave them vulnerable to suggestion, and that is all needed to drag them to try anything, being drugs, alohol or crimes.

It only happens to others.” “My son or  daughter would never do such a thing –  they are good kids. They stay out of trouble.”  Are you really convinced this is true?  Unfortunately, these statements are all too  common and are a reflection of the state  of denial and/or naiveté in which we live.  The sad reality is that there are more Muslim  youth involved in drugs than we wish to know  about. Drug use among Muslims is a creeping  enemy that involves the abuse of substances  ranging from the inhaling of household  products (paint, sprays, glue etc.) to shooting  heroin.  Regardless of their gender, age, economic  or social status, or ethnicity, Muslim youth  are not immune to the dangerous world of  drugs. And the more we deny this problem,  the worse it will get.  When we began writing this article we  thought we would find only one or two youth  that may have dabbled in drugs. But what we  learned was shocking. The following experiences  are two accounts of Muslim youth’s  involvement with drugs. Both individuals  come from upper-middle class backgrounds;  they both started out experimenting with  marijuana. However, the two of them live  very different lives today.  We begin with Muhammad. He attended  private school most of his life, received  good grades, and participated in sports.  Muhammad had a hard time fitting in with  the other students at school, so he began  associating with the wrong type of friends.  By the time he was 16, he was drinking alcohol  and smoking marijuana. Within two  months of his first use, he was smoking  marijuana three times a week.  He told us how and why he started, “I was  on a trip with a friend, and we were approached  by a total stranger who offered  us marijuana. It was just something to do.  I never previously contemplated using it. It  was peer pressure. I wanted to fit in, so if  my friends were doing it, I needed to do it  too. In retrospect, I had an identity crisis. I  didn’t have a strong sense of self-worth and  I definitely did not have a Muslim identity.  The combination of wanting to fit in and  not knowing who I should be didn’t give me  any reason to avoid using marijuana. Using  it became a method to escape reality.”  The point is that our teens don’t even  have to actively seek drugs. Simply being  in the wrong state of mind and feeling  negatively about himself and his parents  made Muhammad vulnerable to suggestion,  and that was all that was needed to  convince him to try marijuana.  Muhammad explained that his negative associations  had to do with losing respect for  his parents. Muhammad had an attitude of  “What do they know?” towards them, and  their relationship suffered from poor communication.  “The farther I got away from  family ties, the closer I got to shady types  who were involved in nefarious activities”,  he explained. “High school is all about fitting  in. You are with the same people day  in and day out, so you want to become like  them.”  After a bad experience with marijuana,  Muhammad stopped using it. Starting college  and leaving his old high school friends  was also a way out for him. He didn’t feel  pressured into fitting in with anyone in college.  “If you are still with the same group  of friends in college, you are finished. But  for me, I left them behind… I had a new  beginning.”      The second Muslim youth who succumbed  to drugs is Nour. She also started  with marijuana, but at a much earlier  age. Unfortunately, Nour’s story is far different  from Muhammad’s – we were unable  to speak to her directly because she  is in prison. We interviewed her father,  Fuad, who told us that the signs of use  were there, but he didn’t pay attention to  them until it was too late.  He admitted that he and his wife, from  whom he is now divorced, fought a lot.  He described his family as “dysfunctional.”  Fuad said that Nour felt inadequate  and suffered from low self-esteem”  Fuad felt that her drug abuse began  with experimentation. “At that age, kids  always experiment with all the things society  tells them they shouldn’t.” This desire  coupled with a dysfunctional family  set the stage for her drug use.  When Fuad attempted to take charge  of the situation, it was already too late.  Nour was addicted to heroin, the most  addictive drug of its kind. She only stayed  sober long enough to graduate from college  but she soon resumed her life as an  addict. Fuad said that his daughter feels  that she can “have fun now, and wise up  later… “The problem with this mentality  is that only 5% of these addicts ever get  the chance to wise up. The rest die from  an overdose, get killed, or end up in jail.”  “My daughter is 20-years old and can’t  support her expensive habit on her own,  so she resorts to illegal activities”, laments  Fuad. “She’s now in jail for smuggling  and stealing.”  Reasons Youth Use Drugs  As the above accounts reflect, the main  reason youth use drugs is to feel popular  or fit in. This desire coupled with  feelings of insecurity and curiosity can  motivate them to do things that they  know are wrong. Many aspects of middle  school and high school life conflict with  Islamic teachings: dances, dating, parties  and revealing clothing. If they are  not counterbalanced with alternatives,  Muslim youth will justify engaging in  bad activities to satisfy their desire to fit  in. Solving the problem of youth involvement  in drugs requires youth, parents  and the community to work together.  Here are some pieces of advice:  To Parents  As parents we must first look at how we  raise our children. Open communication  between parents and children must be  established and encouraged. All too often,  parents are naïve of their children’s  surroundings, while their children are  eaten up by society. Many families are  lacking a full system of discipline. Parental  expectations need to be well defined,  and consequences for not meeting  these expectations must be in place  and enforced. Muslim parents living in  the West must be equipped to meet the  challenges of raising teens in a secular  environment.  Parents should get closer to their children.  They should not try to cover up  subjects like drugs and sex. We would  be foolish if we believe that our children  will never see or think about them, or  even use them.  To Youth  It is important that Muslim youth associate  with other good Muslim youth in  order to enjoin what is right and forbid  what is evil. Muhammad, whose story  was shared earlier, told us, “Muslim  teens shouldn’t just look for other Muslims,  but good ones. I smoked my first  cigarette with my Muslim friend in the  alley behind a masjid.”  Religion is like a cup. Once you do something  haram, it gets cracked and it leaks.  The more your cup leaks, the sooner it  will break, and the easier it becomes to  do more haram.  If your Islam isn’t established by the time  you reach high school, you will submit to  the pressures. Keeping good company,  avoiding tempting situations, and striving  to practise Islam fully are the best  measures for staying away from drugs.  To Community  It is imperative to provide alternatives  to the many temptations present in our  society. Classes, sports, and social gatherings  should be offered to youth. Friday  and Saturday night activities are especially  important for older teens. Youth  should be the focus of what happens at  the Islamic Centres.  We must be mindful, however, of the  false sense of security some parents feel  because their families are active at the  masjid. Some parents are absolutely  clueless about their children’s problems.  We must openly talk about drugs and remove  the tape from the sealed box that  we’ve thrown into the darkest corner of  our closet. Open forums on issues such  as drug use must also be made available.  In this manner, teens will realise that  they are not alone in feeling affected by  the pressures of school and society.  Our youth need to feel as though they  belong. We must accept the fact that our  children are susceptible to all the evils  in our environment. The only way we  can truly protect our children is to start  interacting with them so that we understand  the pressures they face.  The voices of youth in this article are  calling out – they are just like the voices  of your own children. •


a work by :

Ghazaleh Kamrani

Ghazaleh Kamrani



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1 Comment on Muslim Youth and Drugs: The Reality

  1. brilliant and brutally honest jazakAllah khayr

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