Chitta: losing health to win peace of mind

chittaPESHAWAR: The moment night falls, Niaz Gul whispers to a colleague on duty and leaves for a few minutes of seclusion while carrying a bottle of water.

Gul, 57, has been serving as a security guard in a private company for the last several years and “going into seclusion” at the time of Ish’a prayers to have a few puffs on Chitta. It has been his routine since young age.

Chitta is a kind of smoking charas (hashish) but it does not involve using a cigarette. It involves a piece of burning ash on which a small amount of charas is placed. The smoker then uses a straw to inhale smoke while also holding water in his mouth and ultimately landing on cloud seven.

“I have been smoking Chitta since 1990,” Gul says while also boasting off its “health benefits”.“I was suffering gas trouble and a doctor told me to smoke it. Believe me, it has resolved my health issue,” he recalled. He stopped short of saying something else due to shortness of breath as he started coughing.

Abdul Majid is another young man, about 28 years of age and addicted to the same thing. He said he has been addicted to it for the last several years. He said he never went to bed without fulfilling his urge for the addiction.

He presented another theory as to why they take mouthful of water while smoking Chitta. “Water removes the oil from charas smoke and a smoker feels it is safer than smoking charas in a cigarette that contains tobacco,” he added.

He argued that sometimes it is time-consuming to smoke charas through a cigarette while Chitta takes less time. Most of the shrines have been the abode of charas smokers. During a visit to a shrine, (name withheld as those present requested anonymity), two men were seen with a Chitta.

Speaking to this scribe, one of them explained: “We know charas smoking is injurious to health, but in Chitta we hold water in the mouth, through which we inhale smoke. Thus, the water purifies the smoke and it becomes less harmful to health.”

The other man sitting there said it is difficult to suppress the urge for Chitta as soon as the weather turns into a light drizzle.

Meanwhile, light rain continued in the city on Thursday. This was kind of weather that according to Chitta smokers lured them to have a smoke.

“When it rains, a charas addict cannot help it,” he said as he put a hand in his pocket and took out a small amount of charas. He called it “Malangi Bootay” (saints’ plant).

While many are addicted to Chitta and other forms of charas smoking, they present different theories to assure it is not that much bad for health. However, medical experts pointed out that both tobacco and charas, are extremely injurious to health. They said it may cause chest infections, cancer, anxiety and other health ailments.

Dr Farman Ali Shah of the Khyber Teaching Hospital told this scribe that charas smoking affects all the vital organs of human body including heart, lungs, kidney, brains, etc.“It damages the cells of all organs. Cognitive powers are affected the most,” he said, adding that besides medical complications, it also leads to financial issues as the contraband is very expensive.

Dr Fakhar Zaman, who works for a private healthcare organisation, told this scribe that charas is a chronic addiction and its property as an addition in itself is a negative trait. He also said that charas addicts often face emotional and psychological disturbances like losing temper, intolerance, etc, in addition to ailments like chest infection and damage to brain cells.

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