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Drug Addiction, the dark side of Kashmir

Jeelani Saima Habeeb

Non-medical use of drugs is becoming a major threat around the world. Drug abuse is a global health and social problem with conditions and problems that vary locally, and a prominent issue of mortality across the globe, thus consuming lives of millions of people.

It is estimated that globally around 246 million people are drug abusers. In India, the scenario is very gruesome.

The population affected by drugs is more than 10.7 million people. In Kashmir valley this worrisome issue has gained attention of the society as a large population of youth in Kashmir valley is lured by drugs.

As long as the problem of drug addiction in Kashmir is concerned it has observed that this conflict ridden region has a tremendous rise in substance abusers over the past decade. Kashmir has been through three decades of violence, resulting in an epidemic of psychosocial disturbances among its population.

A number of psychiatric problems have emerged like Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The conflict ridden valley has also seen a tremendous rise in substance abusers over the past many years.
Government Psychiatric Hospital Srinagar, the only mental health hospital in the valley, in one of its reports had stated that most numbers of drug addiction cases belong to a very young generation.

A recent study conducted by Srinagar based Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (IMHANS) in a Drug De-addiction centre in Srinagar found that over two-third of patients in the study had started substance abuse in the age group of 11-20 years. The most common substances of abuse identified included nicotine (94.4%), medicinal opioids (65.7%), cannabis (63.6%), benzodiazepines (45.5%), other prescription medications (43.4%), alcohol (32.5%), inhalants (11.1%), and cocaine (7.5%).

Few months back the reports emerged that “Kashmir valley toped in the trade of substandard drugs, 81% of the total drug samples found substandard.”

United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) reported that around 70000 people are drug addicts in the Kashmir valley alone among which 4000 are females. The survey also revealed that 65 to 70% of students in Kashmir are drug addicts.

As per the statistics issued by Government Psychiatric disease hospital, Rainawari, 90% drug users are in the age group of 17 to 35 years with a lifetime prevalence of drug addiction. According to study conducted by a leading Psychiatrist Dr Mushtaq Margoob has found, “More than two lakh people in Kashmir are into the consumption of illegal drugs.

Naqshbandi in his paper “drug addiction and youth of Kashmir” interviewed 270 young Kashmiri people between the age group of 16-30 in different districts of Kashmir. His findings revealed that Conflict and unemployment were the mains reasons of drug addiction among the youth.

The study further revealed that above 90% don’t have any awareness regarding the drug De addiction process and only 8% know about the drug de addiction center in Srinagar, Kashmir.

Experts say the geographical location of Jammu and Kashmir helps in easy availability of drugs in the state.

The ongoing turmoil has also played a huge role in pushing many to drugs, which many see as a means to escape the pain of the never-ending war. “Stress and the turmoil naturally play a role but other factors like peer pressure, unemployment, easy availability of the drugs etc.

“One of our jobs is to make the people feel the pain of the ill effects of our society. Solutions have to find out within our social set-up and to create mass awareness across the state about drug-abuse so that it can be completely eradicated. This griming picture of drug abuse in the Kashmir valley has put a lot of challenges for the people of the valley in general and for Government agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations in particular. The biggest challenge is the illegal trafficking and sale of drugs within the valley to which police and general have an important role to play. Some recent reports suggest that there is a large number of Opioid cultivation going on in Kashmir that makes it more readily available for consumption and others psychotropic medicines are also easily accessible. The other challenge is the limited facilities available for rehabilitation of drug addicts. More drug de- addiction centers are needed to rehabilitate the victims. Lack of awareness about both Drug Addiction and the process of detoxification and rehabilitation is also a challenge. Government Agencies, Educational institutes, NGO’s and other social work institutes need to educate people especially young generation about this problem. The awareness on the part of Parents and caretakers is also an issue to tackle so that they can detect this problem as early as possible and they can provide immediate help to the person. A large amount of the literature suggests that enhancing a victim’s social support and inculcate in him or her some positive behaviors can help him get rid of this menace. Drug Addicts often feel isolated and sense of alienation, so providing them certain kind of social and moral support help them and make them more empowered to get over this problem. The community-based approach is needed to map out vulnerable areas and persons. Lectures should be delivered in schools and colleges besides sports personalities shall be involved to create mass awareness against drug addiction. The other important parameter can be awareness programmes, nukkadnataks in schools, colleges etc to educate people particularly youth and students regarding the negative impacts of drug addiction also normative education and competence enhancement can be offered to aware the people.
There is a need to follow such noble initiatives in subsequent also. The administration has an important role to play, both while dealing with the dealers and users, some stringent punishment can be employed to restrain this concern.

The author is a PhD Scholar can be reached at ([email protected])