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The Glue: Smell of Death

By Usman Shahid
May 31 2013




Minar-e-Pakistan is an example of enlightened Pakistan. This is the place where the Muslims of the subcontinent dreamt of a free welfare state of their own – a dream of a Pakistan where development, resources, basic necessities of life and opportunity to progress would be present. Even after 73 years, a memorial of this dream still exists in the form of a 203 feet long tower, which stands tall on the face of Lahore. However, in its shade, young generation of Pakistan remains oblivious to the dreams, in memory of which this country and Minar was founded, submerged in not only poverty but also in drug addiction.

In Lahore, a majority of young addicts can be seen in around Minar-e-Pakistan and in areas close by throughout the day. Their eyes do not hold dreams but await death. Many individuals coming from Lahore and other cities crowd the areas around the grand monument of Mughal era, the Badshahi Mosque and the final resting place of Sufi Ali Hajveri (Daata Darbar) few furlongs away. Hundreds of these are addicted to drugs, which can be seen in the condition of haplessness on roads, streets, corners, parks and footpaths.

Asif, 16, is among these individuals who are addicted to drugs. Like other addicts, he is also suffering from homelessness, economic problems and hopelessness. According to Asif, he earns by playing Dhol (double headed drum) for fulfilling his daily needs. On the contrary, he was also seen begging the pilgrims.

Addicts of adhesive glue as known as solution are usually found in known places. The reason is that red light area as known as Heera Mandi is the biggest shoe market of Lahore, and solution is easily available here. Nearby such monuments are present where they find free food, can beg, find labor and shelter.

Youngest of five siblings, Asif was not able to continue his education after fifth class in spite of love from parents and doting siblings due to poverty. Helplessly, his mother sent him to work with her brother. Asif’s maternal uncle was a drug seller, and he got Asif engaged in drug selling along with his own son.

As he was young, police or any other would not suspect him that Asif was supplying Heroine and other drugs to the houses of the clients. As soon as he got involved in drug supplying business, he became addicted to it.As his parents got to know of this, they called him back home. They even kept him tied up with ropes for days so that he would not run away. However, one day, he succeeded in running away from his house, and reached Lahore.

In the past three years, he would sit on streets near Daata Darbar, sleep on footpaths and would live with other addicts. In 2012, Child Protection and Welfare Bureau Punjab team upon seeing him under the influence of drugs transferred him to a hospital, and then transferred him to their own institution, where he was given food, shelter, education and training to fight addiction.

Asif says that he would get beaten on not following the instructions. Due to which, he ran away from the Bureau within a few month. Today, other junkies are his family and footpaths his home. He regrets leaving his home and Child Protection and Welfare Bureau Punjab. Asif wished to live a happy and healthy life with his family like other youngsters.


For whom drugs should be quitted?

Osman is addicted to adhesive glue and other drugs for the past ten years. He was six when his father died in police shoot-out. Now, he is 18. He lived in Karachi then, and his father belonged to MQM. After his father’s death, police started raiding his home regularly to investigate. So, his mother flew to Lahore along with her four children. Osman’s maternal grandmother got his mother remarried and children also started to live in the new house and with their new father with her. He is the eldest among his siblings.

“Police does not arrest individuals who use solutions. But promptly arrests those, who use hash, alcohol and other illegal drugs.” He told. The biggest reason for not arresting individuals addicted to solutions is that as the police is about to arrest them, they start to cut themselves with the blades present in their pockets, and due to the fear that in case of damage they would have to be answerable to the authorities, police leaves without making the arrest.

Osman narrated, “When I started working in a bicycle factory, I was thrown out after being accused of theft. The factory owner started to send police to the house in order to get his goods back. My step father threw me out of the house after becoming fed up of the visits from the police. It has been three to four years since I have not seen my family members.”

Osman says that if he lives for 50 years in his house, he would not touch drugs at all. “For me quitting drugs is not an issue but for whom should I leave it? Who wants to leave home and become an addict?”

If I am made the Prime Minister… Bilal’s Story

“If I am made the prime minister, I would prohibit drugs completely and would implement this policy strictly”. Unaware of the reality that the use of drugs is against the law and a crime, eldest among seven siblings, Bilal, 26, not only uses adhesive glue but also marijuana, alcohol, hash and heroine. He belongs to a local village of Sahiwal but has been living in the Ali Park of Heera Mandi for many years. He earns his living by giving oil massages. He started his addiction with cigarettes, and then poverty, unemployment and being away from the family members made him a drug addict. To him, marijuana is the best of all while solution is used only in the case of less money is available.

Bilal still wants to quit drugs. He says that police sells drugs, and there is no one to ask them because everyone is working for each other. Bilal believes that if he was the prime minister, then the police would have been honest as when the people in authority become good, their subordinate individuals and institutions correct themselves.

We file a case

Contrary to Osman’s and Bilal’s accusations, SHO Shabir Sobhani said there is no drug supplier on Fort Road and Heera Mandi alongside other areas falling within his station’s jurisdiction, and none of his workers is involved in drugs selling. He, denying the accusation, said that if some addict starts to cut his wrists using a blade during arrest proceedings, case of suicide is filed against him under the Section 325. With regards to the presence of addicts in Daata Darbar and adjoining areas, he said these areas do not fall under his jurisdiction. That is why drug addicts could be seen on roads and footpaths every time.

What happens due to sniffing glue?

Addiction to adhesive glue is the kind of addiction that any person may do for recreation or to lose senses. It is sniffed through the nose after wrapping it up in paper or cloth. In solvent drugs, glue is the most used drug, which is usually famous in youngsters. The important reason for its fame is its cheapness, easy and legal availability. In past, this was only a social issue but present research has proven that glue addiction may lead to physical illnesses ultimately causing death. It is usually the first step towards addiction to extremely harmful drugs.


Most of the young solutions addicts believe that the solutions glue their internal body parts such as lungs same as it glues shoes or some other two things together. On the contrary, according to American Foundation for Drug Free World, sniffing drugs including glue affects the organs directly, and causes intoxication same as alcohol within a few moments. Soon after using these drugs, the affected person loses control both physically and psychologically. His head starts to ache badly and sometimes, he ends up losing consciousness. In addition, bristles appear around nose and face. Continual use of glue could lead to heart and respiratory trouble.

The long term effects of glue addiction is weakness in muscles, depression, dizziness, mania, loss of memory, damage to bone mass and difficulty in breathing and reduction in the supply of oxygen could result in death as well.

According to the United Nations Organization for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report published in March 2013, 4.1 million Pakistanis are addicted to drugs while the facility of its treatment and expert therapists is only limited to 30 thousand individuals. It was also revealed that during the last year 6.4 million adults used drugs and this rate is increasing every year. In a country, where one fourth of the population is living beneath the poverty line, hindrance in getting proper treatment is an ordinary occurrence.

Mohammad Nasir and Fakhrul Huda published a report in 2012 on homelessness children of Lahore “An Analysis of Causative Factors Which Push and Pull the Children out of Their Home into the Street World at Lahore.” In it, research was done on children who are addicted to glue. According to the research, homeless children seen not only in Lahore but in every street and corner across Pakistan are devoid of basic necessities and rights. Due to being separate from their family, they stay deprived of parental love, attention and care, and they are at the mercy of criminals, police, drug sellers and its addicts. Due to the inappropriate environment for children’s health, they fall victim to AIDS and other STDs. In addition, they become addicted to drugs especially to glue sniffing. The biggest reason for this is its easy and cheap availability. According to this research, there are 10,000 homeless children living in Lahore alone. A survey of 337 children revealed the following results:


The table given above signifies that 1.4 percent children use opium, 7.5 percent uses hash, 2.6 percent uses heroine, 6.1 percent uses alcohol while 39.3 percent uses glue. 59.9 percent uses cigarettes, 15.6 percent uses paan (betel leaves), 21.4 percent uses gutaka and 22.8 percent uses niswar.

Not only in Pakistan but in other developed countries, this addiction is common. According to a report of University of Arizona’s College of Medicine, 20 percent young are addicted to glue. Similarly, first ever case of glue addiction in Singapore came to light in 1977 when a 15 years old American was found dead in his room, and glue was found in his nostril. Postmortem report proved that Toluene (ingredient used in glue) was present in great quantities in blood.

Addiction is not a habit but a disease

Every psychologist agrees addiction is a disease, which is initiated for mental peace or amusement but turns into a disease once it becomes a habit.

Salma Batool, a clinical psychologist and research fellow at the University of Punjab, Department of Clinical Psychology, states that addiction does not occur because of poverty or any particular reason. It relates to community domain. There is a need to see as to what elements of the community lead towards addiction. Neighbors come first as to how be the environment around you. It includes laws and morals. That is to what extent people or community disapproves of drugs. The factor of availability is also important.

The second domain is of family. It includes the discipline in family whether parents have prohibited their children from touching cigarette or not. The second important thing is how many problems exist in the family. If fights occur frequently, then children would look for solace elsewhere and would also use drugs. It also relates to the anti social behavior of the family. What is the reaction of parents if the child steals or fights? If they stop the children from doing bad, then there is a greater chance of betterment. Personal attitudes are the third important risk factor. Influenced by peers, children start using drugs for amusement and then slowly become addicted to it.

Batool said, “The most important domain among the three is family as any individual gets most attention from the family and spends most of the time with it. This affects their attitudes a great deal. Normally, risk of becoming an addict increases at the age of 16 to 17 years. The reason behind this is the physical and psychological changes that take place as one steps from childhood into the youth.”

She regretted that even if a person gets treated of addiction, there is a slim chance that the person will not take up drugs as the same factors because of which he used the drugs first, may cause him to relapse again. It could only be a miracle if a drug addict does not relapse. “These individuals are emotionally weak, and are not able to face problems. Therefore, they find an escape in drugs for whenever they have to face a decisive situation, they lose themselves in drugs. “

Is prevention better than cure?

In 2004, Child Protection and Welfare Bureau was set up in the province of Punjab with the help of United Nations, whose objective was to provide shelter and care to 4 months to 15 years old homeless children and deliver them to their families. Child Protection Officer for Public Awareness Zehra Omer says that since its inception the organization has helped 36,000 children. Majority of the children include beggars while some children are brought to the organization in state of homelessness courtesy some factors especially drug addiction. They are housed in male or female sections in Lahore headquarters, where they are provided with food, education and other basic necessities. According to Omer, the organization is responsible for the care of these children until parents or guardians are not found or until they turn 18 years of age. In the former case, after formal proceedings or investigation, they are handed over to their parents. In the latter case, they are handed over to the Department of Population Welfare so that they could guide them with reference to these children’s future. She said that children who are addicted to drugs are normally not kept with other children as they have acquired bad habits, and it is very difficult to control them. For this, the bureau has made a liaison with few psychological institutions where these children are sent for psychological treatment and counseling. With reference to violence against children who are addicts, Omer said that abuse against children is not at all permitted in the organization. However, in extremely critical situations, sometimes, they have to go this extent only for the betterment of the child.

Apart from Child Protection Bureau, there are hundreds of NGOs and some private organizations including Population Welfare and Social Welfare that are trying to provide treatment and protection to drug addicts. In spite of this their frequency is increasing day by day. Asif, Osman and Bilal are among thousands of those youngsters who sniff death every day.

Scientific research proves that glue addiction is only harmful for health but due to these damages, an unaware youngster may die. Its rate is increasing due to its easy availability and relatively cheapness. According to the experts, its damages can be prevented by creating awareness about health issues, early diagnosis and proper prevention.



Side Story 1

Drugs Prohibited in Islam:

Ibrar Ahmad, a fellow of prestigious religious institution of the country, Jamia-e-Ashrafia, said that there are places where we find hints towards the prohibition of alcohol in Quran. However, every kind of drug has been clearly prohibited in Hadiths. He quoted Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as saying, “Everything that intoxicates is prohibited.” And “There is no cure in addiction.”

Ibrar says, “There are five objectives of Shariah, which include protection of property, protection of life, protection of honor, protection of religion and protection of intellect. Individual loses his capacity to think due to drugs. Due to this, there remains no difference between an aware and unaware animal. In the light of this also, it becomes clear that every kind of drug is prohibited in Islam.”

Side Story 2

We don’t sell glue to addicts

A shopkeeper in the shoe market of Heera Mandi said that he does not sell the solution to young individuals. “We can tell by the face as to why a person has come to buy the solution. We do not sell the solution to an addict.”

With regards to the workers working in the shoe factory in the upper story of the shop, he said that workers, who fix shoes using the solution, fall victim to stomach ulcer, lung disease and respiratory problems after a few years due to vapors rising from it. In spite of this, they do not leave their job as they get used (addicted) to it. He said, “I have seen people’s liver busting and them dying painfully in hospitals.

About the Author: Usman Shahid is a freelance journalist and a researcher based in Lahore. He is the co author of “Indo Pak People to People Contact: A victim of national insecurities” which will be published soon. Currently, Shahid is teaching journalism at the University of South Asia. He can be reached at

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