Srinagar, May3. Trembling and yelling for help, Nayeem 21, Wednesday collapsed on the floor of the Drug De-addiction Centre set up at SMHS hospital.
His two younger brothers, who had been attending him for the last one week in the Centre, helped him get up and sit on the steel bench. They firmly held his quivering arms and legs.
In a slurry voice, he repeatedly told Dr Shabir Ahmad Dar, a psychiatrist and a drug de-addiction specialist that the medicines given to him during the week had “further troubled his body”.
Cupping his face, Nayeem wailed “Mouji Mouji (mother, mother)” as the doctor asked him to remain silent.
For the last one year, this young ashen-faced student of Government Degree College Pulwama is hooked to Heroin, a highly addictive opioid that is fast taking over all other narcotics used in the valley.
Like opium, heroin is made from the resin of poppy plants. Milky, sap-like opium is first removed from the pod of the poppy flower. This opium is refined to make morphine, and then further refined into different forms of heroin.
Its addiction almost cost Nayeem his life when he was admitted in a serious condition at SMHS hospital last week.
He spoke hastily and could barely open his eyes, which the doctor said was due to the Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST), a treatment mostly given to intravenous drug addicts, who have higher chances of getting blood transmitted diseases.
Coming from a well-off family in Pulwama, Nayeem was first introduced to heroin by his local friends.
“He was a shy fellow, prayed five times a day, and was a good cricketer. We fail to understand how it happened. Probably bad company,” his brother said, while asking Nayeem to calm down.
The doctor, in the meantime, was examining the findings of the medical examinations Nayeem had undergone during the week.
“These tests are still positive and there are chances of relapse in his case. Let us keep him here for another week,” the doctor told his brothers.
Substance abuse, particularly heroin, is increasing at an alarming rate in Kashmir. Data sketches a frightening picture.
In SMHS’s drug De-addiction Centre, as many as 6,476 drug abusers were registered for treatment in Outdoor Patient Department during 2018. Out of them, 755 were admitted for observation and rehabilitation.
Cases of heroin abusers comprised 35 per cent of the total addicts, followed by cannabis (30%). Another 30 % of the cases were Poly, in which a person is addicted to multiple psychoactive drugs including heroin.
Males comprised 88 per cent of drug abusers. The menace, surprisingly, is more prevalent in villages as 62.5 per cent of the cases registered were from rural areas.
Shakir, 19 too was admitted in the Centre for the last two weeks.
In a slightly better state than Nayeem, Shakir, who is from Shopian, said he must have spent at least Rs 7 lakhs buying heroin from peddlers.
“A gram of heroin costs Rs 2500-3000, which is usually a onetime quantity for an addict,” he said. Shakir recalled how he and his fellow addicts use to” chase the dragon”, a phrase they picked up from movies while referring to inhaling the vapour from a heated solution of heroin.
“A single chase was enough to make me high,” he said, adding that he became addicted in 2016 after the drug was introduced to him by his friends from Rajouri.
“ For the first four months, I used to consume this drug by lighting it on a silver foil and chase the smoke emitted by the substance by using a rolled up Rs 10 note. It has become my routine to consume at least a gram of heroin each day,” he said.
Shakir has a funny answer when asked how he managed the money. “Allah sab manage karta hain (God manages everything.) I would often spend Rs 5,000 to 7,000 a day for buying heroin,” he replied.
His orchardist father took two years to realise that his son had fallen into the trap. It was on the day when Shakir cried of pain after injecting the drug into his muscles.
“I couldn’t find my veins and the craving was such that I began to hit my head against the wall. Later, I called my parents and sought their help to get rid of the addiction,” he said.
Of all the drug addicts registered or admitted in SMHS, doctors claim that 90 per cent of them are hooked to heroin.
Known as chitta, (a term that became more popular after the movie Udta Punjab highlighted the drug mafia in the state) heroin, as per the addicts, is easily available in Kashmir.
“Nowadays you will struggle to find rice in stores but heroin is available everywhere. It is fast delivered than a pizza company delivers a pizza. One just needs to travel to Sangam (a place in Anantnag) and peddlers will themselves approach you,” one of the addicts admitted in drug de-addiction told The Kashmir Monitor.
The doctors at the Centre say it was after 2016, the cases of heroin started to overtake that of Cannabis in Kashmir.
“Initially heroin abuse cases would come from north Kashmir mostly. But for the last two years, almost 60 per cent cases come from south Kashmir. All the addicts admitted here are undergoing treatments for their excessive abuse of heroin,” said Dr Yasir Rather, Associate Professor at Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College Srinagar.
He said the cases comprise of all age-groups. “Earlier, drug abuse had a stereotypic aspect as most cases would comprise unemployed, married, and depressed people. But now it has crossed all such barriers. The cases we witness are shocking. Elderly, children, women, students, farmers and even businessmen are addicted to heroin,” the doctor said.
He said the addiction of heroin is a chronic disorder, which often results in relapse.
“Of all patients who have undergone rehabilitation, nearly 60 per cent relapse. The political environment in our Kashmir have made our generation more prone to addiction,” he said.
Admitting a drug addiction was rampant in the valley, a senior police officer said they were “on the job to combat the menace”.
“Every now and then the peddlers are being arrested by the police. There is a strong drive by police, which on specific information busts the mafia across the valley,” the officer said, while refusing to be quoted by name.
So far this year, police has registered 104 cases of drug peddling in Kashmir and arrested 169 persons under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS). (The names of the patients have been changed in the story to protect their identity)