Kashmir-A Junkies’ Paradise

Drug addiction in the Kashmir Valley has seen a rising and alarming trend in the last many years. Though there are no specific studies conducted on the number of drug addicts in the valley, estimates put the number anywhere between four to five lac. Not only is the number disturbing, but underlying distribution as well. Not only boys but girls as well across the valley are increasingly resorting to drug abuse. Among various drugs, the use of cannabis in the valley is not something new. But in earlier times it was limited to cannabis and in a very limited section of the society. In the wake of the Afghan war of 1980s, there was a kind of drug boom in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which spilled into Kashmir as well. But during those days, it was limited to the tourism sector and its usage was limited.

With the onset of militancy in 1990s which continued unabated for almost the entire 90s decade, the spillover effects began to be felt by the early 2000s. With a lull and drop in militancy related violence after almost a decade of heightened violence, common Kashmiris began to feel the silent effects of all those years. The violence touched almost every Kashmiri, directly or indirectly. With death and destruction, Kashmir began to witness an alarming rise in levels of depression and anxiety, especially among youngsters. This frustration can be seen to have found an outlet in various ways. Stone pelting would be perhaps one of them. Drug abuse can be largely seen as a spillover effect of two decades of militancy related violence in the valley. People have witnessed torture and death at close quarters. There are thousands of orphans,widows and half widows across Kashmir valley. Unemployment is on the rise and hundreds of thousands of young men and women do not find any meaningful livelihood opportunities. Increasing frustration and hopelessness is just adding to this menace.

All these years the economy of Kashmir has badly suffered. The Govt has not come out with any meaningful rehabilitation package for the faltering economy. There is hardly any investment in the Private sector and Govt jobs are also drying up. As if this was not enough, the State administration has been almost a silent spectator to the alarming increase levels of drug abuse. There are hardly any rehab centres and very less professionals like Psychiatrists and counselors to help fight this menace. Add to that the easy availability of various drugs and it is a ticking time bomb ready to explode any time.  

It is not only banned substances whose misuse is causing a problem, but even medicinal opiates are being misused. There have been many cases of deaths due to overdose of medicinal opiates. It is an alarming trend since drugs, not only OTC drugs but even prescription are sold without a prosper prescription in drug stores across Kashmir. Self medication is a very common affliction in the Valley.

It seems Kashmir Valley is already in the midst of a drug epidemic. The Govt and society in general needs to wake up to this ugly reality. Apart from setting up rehabilitation centres, the Govt needs to attack the supply chain. In the recently concluded Parliamentary elections, drug abuse was one of the top election issues. Punjab is witnessing the disastrous consequences of drug abuse. It is time for Kashmir to learn from their experience, before it gets out of hand.

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