Srinagar: A few weeks ago, a strapping young male patient was wheeled into the emergency ward of a hospital clutching his chest, sweating profusely and barely conscious.
“He was brought to the emergency with complaints of chest pain, cold sweating, and severe generalized weakness. He had no family history of valvular or congenital heart disease. On further examination, however, it came out to be a fall out of heroin overdose,” the doctor treating him said.
The doctors tried valiantly but couldn’t resuscitate him, as he met an untimely end.
Similarly, another patient in his late 20s from South Kashmir with a history of heroin inhalation and other opioid drugs was rushed to the emergency.
“Unfortunately, he too succumbed due to the heroin overdose,” the doctor said.
Data released by IMHANS revealed that there have been 3538 admissions since the pandemic broke out last year. Interestingly, 12 percent of OPD attendees were first-time users who took to drugs during the lockdown period. Also, 24 percent of the drug abusers had relapsed during the lockdown.
With the increased usage of heroin in Kashmir, there has been a corresponding increase in overdose-related death. Heroin is one of the most commonly used drugs among intravenous drug abusers.
“Drug overdose is a major cause of premature death and morbidity among heroin abusers. During a heroin overdose, there are many factors at play that contribute to ending the life of the user. As such, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is one of these factors,” Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Sheikh Shoib JLNM Hospital, Srinagar said.
He noted that “injectables” are usually responsible for cardiovascular deaths.
Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Government Superspeciality hospital Srinagar, Dr. Syed Maqbool said the psycho-social stressors have also increased in the wake of a pandemic.
“With the result, it is causing people to lose their jobs. With no good support system, and mounting financial distress, they often take to smoking and drugs as an escape,” he said.
That said, he pointed out that among other drugs, heroin is becoming rampant in Kashmir and is readily available.
“Once addicted, it puts the users at a higher risk of sudden death. In case of a heroin overdose, it depresses the respiratory center in the brain. The respiration constricts due to which the patient succumbs within no time,” Maqbool said.
Dr. Shoib said there are various remedial measures that can be taken to avert mortality and morbidity due to heroin overdose.
“Early detection and diagnosis, and management are key. Further, early screening can help a long way. Moreover, awareness of the masses through campaigns and workshops is required,” he said.
Besides, the awareness by religious clerks and heads of Mohalla committees can also prove helpful, he said.
“Most importantly, a conducive atmosphere should be created in a family wherein children can freely talk to their parents,” Dr. Shoib said.