By Hirra Azmat
Srinagar, May 14: Often at office or home, a vision haunts Shakeel (name changed)—of his son roaming the streets barefoot, in rags.
“We have suffered immensely. Our tears will fill an ocean. We have spent umpteen nights mourning and wondering what went wrong,” Shakeel narrates, in a voice soaked in emotions, the daily ordeal he and his wife have been suffering after finding out their son’s addiction to drugs.
Umar (name changed), their eldest son, is a chronic cannabis and alcohol addict.
He smokes four cigarette and 12 cannabis packets a day, to go with the abuse of alcohol and medical opioids.
He is now undergoing treatment at the Drug de-Addiction Center, Police Control Room, at Batamaloo.
Umar meant the world to his father. However, after he took to drugs, the equation between them has changed altogether.
“Violent arguments, tears and several suicide attempts followed,” Umar told this reporter.
His mother has 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-deaddiction center was another challenge.
There was virtually no information on it, besides the stigma attached to it.
“A friend I confided in suggested the center at PCR. So far, I am satisfied with the treatment there,” he said.
Another harrowing tale comes from Sakeena (name changed), a helpless mother pacing frantically outside the room where her son is being counseled.
Wasim (name changed), in his early twenties, is addict to heroin.
“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 says, sighing.
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 a multiple times.
The two cases are just two 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 the addiction of one family member can become a reason for several mental illnesses within the household.
“Drug addiction can cause miscommunication and constant bickering within the family, thus raising the stress levels in 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 their drug-addict husbands.
“Last year, we helped 160 women to give divorce to their husbands mostly for drug addiction. We helped them to give divorce when we realised they can’t continue their relationships,” Islam told The Kashmir Monitor.
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), against those involved in drugs’ smuggling or cultivation, which has become a regular concern in 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.
J&K is also one among the six states along with West Bengal, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Bihar where maximum poppy cultivation is being done, according to the report.