Drug menace: How addicts’ families survive the nightmare and numbers continue to rise
Srinagar: Often when Shakeel (name changed) is at office or home, a vision haunts him: His son in tattered clothes and disheveled hair roams bare-foot on the streets.
With voice thick from emotion, Shakeel narrates the daily ordeal he and his wife suffer after their son’s addiction to drugs became an open secret.
“We have suffered immensely. Our tears will fill an ocean. We have spent umpteen nights mourning and wondering what went wrong,” he narrated.
Umar (name changed), their eldest son, is a chronic cannabis and alcohol addict smoking four cigarette packets, and twelve cannabis packets besides abusing alcohol and medical opioids on a daily basis. He is presently undergoing treatment at Drug de-Addiction Center, Police Control Room, Batamaloo.
Umar meant the world to his father. However, after he took to drugs, the equation between them changed altogether. “Violent arguments, tears and several suicide attempts followed,” Umar told this reporter.
His mother also developed severe depression.
“My home might appear a normal home from the outside, but its members die every day,” Shakeel says, choking up.
Getting his son admitted to the drug-de-addiction center was another challenge. There was virtually no information on it, besides the stigma attached to it. “A friend who I confided in suggested the center at PCR to me. So far I am satisfied with the treatment there,” he said.
Another harrowing tale is told by Sakeena (name changed) a helpless mother, who paces frantically outside the room where her son is being counseled.
Wasim (name changed), in his early twenties is a heroin addict. “Last week, he woke up screaming and crying loudly. He kept pleading with me to save him,” she narrates in a hoarse whisper.
Three friends of Wasim addicted to heroin have all died painful deaths in recent times. “He instantly felt that he was the last one left, and death will visit him soon,” she reveals with a sigh.
This incident left the whole family traumatised. Wasim’s younger brother has stopped going to school fearing the regular taunts and giggles of his classmates. Sakeena develops high blood pressure frequently, and has been hospitalized multiple times.
The two cases are just two cases from the surfeit of drug abuse that has gripped Kashmir. Data shows an 85% increase in the number of drug and substance abuse cases, from 410 in 2014 to 759 in 2016.
Combined cases of drug abuse and related psychological issues have gone up from more than 14,500 cases in 2014 to 33,222 in 2016, a staggering 130% increase in two years.
Experts point out that substance abuse can exert a huge pressure on the family members of an individual including parents, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, or any family member who is part of their life. Far too many of these people do not receive the help they need in order to overcome these problems in their daily lives and subsequently, their families suffer alongside of them.
Dr Muzzafar Khan, Consultant Psychologist at Help Foundation and Director of Police, Drug De-addiction Centre in Srinagar, said that the addiction of one family member can become a reason of several mental illnesses within the household.
“Drug addiction can cause miscommunication and constant bickering within the family, thus raising the stress levels among the family members,” he said.
Expressing concern over the growing drug addiction among youth, Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Grand Mufti, Mufti Nasir ul Islam said that a lot of women were approaching the Shariah court to give divorce to drug addict husbands.
“Last year, we helped 160 women to give divorce to their husbands and mostly were drug addicts. We helped them to give divorce when we realised they can’t continue their relationships,” Islam told The Kashmir Monitor.
He said that drug addiction was taking a heavy toll on the society. “The drug addicts harass family members. Women seek divorce to get rid of domestic violence by their husbands who take drugs,” he said.
The Deputy Grand Mufti said that drug addicts do not give rights to life partners. “They don’t feed to family members and ignore them. Drug addicts do not satisfy biological need of life partners,” he said.
He said that their (women) financial condition may not be good but had no other option to get separated from drug addict husbands.
Director General of Police, S P Vaid has termed drug addiction “a bigger challenge than militancy” in Jammu and Kashmir.
While Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has directed police officials to use the most draconian laws, including the Public Safety Act (PSA)–a law under which a person can be detained without trial for upto two years–against those involved in the cultivation and smuggling of drugs.
According to the figures of State Excise Department, just 40 kanals (2 hectares) of land cultivating poppy was destroyed in 2017 as compared to 2,733 kanals (138 hectare) of land that was destroyed in the year 2016. Similarly, between 2010 to 2015 the department destroyed 2,603, 2,864, 1,915, 1,628, 2,403 and 83 kanals (131, 144, 96, 82, 121 and 4 hectares) of poppy cultivation respectively. However, in 2017, only 40 kanals (2 hectares) of land have been cleared at Anantnag and Pulwama towns of south Kashmir.
Narcotics Control Bureau of Union Ministry of Home Affairs’s annual report for 2016, has revealed that J&K is one among the top states in India where maximum drug illicit crops are cultivated.
According to the report, the police seized maximum ‘Hashish’ in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, and J&K. In J&K, police seized 178.47 kilograms of Hashish during 2016. Hashish or Charas is the resinous extract derived from the plant, Cannabis sativa.
J&K is also one among the six states-West Bengal, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Bihar-where maximum poppy cultivation is being done, according to the report.