Check the Menace Before it Hollows Society from Within
ALARMING statistics about drug addiction in Kashmir emerge by the day. Recently, a survey conducted by the Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (IMHNS), Government Medical College, Srinagar, in collaboration with the social welfare department and Directorate of Health revealed that 2.8% of the total population of Kashmir has a been substance user, with 52,404 dependent on drugs. The report stated that of the drug dependents, approximately 95% were heroin users. This number against the backdrop of the total population of Kashmir should set the proverbial alarm bells ringing. But it appears society is complacent about this menace. While a number of theories and remedial practices are being floated to curb drug addiction in Kashmir- police action, checking or curbing the supply of drugs, and so on – but on their own, these are inadequate. For example, from a larger and broader global perspective, opioid and other drug addiction is rather endemic in the United States. The source of most drugs in the US historically have been some South American countries among others. Diplomatic and coercive interstate action failed to check the supply of drugs into the country. If this is the case with a country like the United States that has the resources and wherewithal to only impose its will on the rest of the world, where would Kashmir fit in the schema? This is a real and not a rhetorical question.
Where then does the antidote to the drug menace in Kashmir lie?
The answer lies in the family itself. While I am not a psychoanalyst or a social psychologist, I would posit that the problem begins in the family and the starting point for curing society of this menace also lies in the family of an individual. It stands to reason that the family is the incubus of an individual- men or women. All or most families are loving and caring ones. But the problem begins when parents of children, one, in excessive love for them fail to realise that they are growing up. Teenage and adolescence are age domains that are not easy: hormonal changes, the awkwardness of transitioning from childhood to teenage and then adolescence, peer influence and peer pressure, navigating the world during this transition can be daunting. But parents usually see their children as little children who ‘are their babies’ that can do no wrong. This erroneous assumption falls flat in the face of reality. The real issue is how, during this transition, parents communicate with their children. In the context of Kashmir, parental- children communication is fundamentally flawed: it veers between extreme strictness and extreme love. In the interstices of these extremes, there then, oftentimes, occurs a breakdown of communication and parental authority thereof. Other pressures- societal, expectational (getting ‘seats’ in professional colleges, careers etc), cultural, economic and peer group pressures -pile up , leading to a fracturing of the individual self and estrangement of the young individual from both society and family. This is a sure shot recipe for a young person falling into the lap of insidious drug addiction where he or she finds a reprieve and relief, however illusory and fleeting from the various pulls and pressures. Other allied issues are undiagnosed and thus untreated depression that can later snowball and cascade into incurable neuroses and psychoses , altering the life, for bad , of an individual forever. These mental health issues can also be predicates for drug addiction making the initial problems even worse. Societal and cultural responses to these problems aggravate them.
So, what and where is the solution?
To repeat, given that the problem lies within the family, it is here that the solution lies. Good parenting is not only about the provision of comforts and needs of life but also about effective, prudent communication and empathy and vigilance. Parents must be alert to any changes in the behaviour and comportment of their children, openly and clearly communicate with them and show empathy toward their children. They must be both parents and friends to their children and the first choice of children confiding in them. If a problem and issue arise, parents must discuss with their children with care and empathy but not mere authority or harshness which can alienate children and lead them to wrong hands. If, for example, a child has tried drugs, confides this to his parents or parents come to know of their child’s addiction from others or serendipitously, they must reassure their children that they will not penalise them harshly but counsel them (themselves or by professional counsellors). If the problem is deeper, then immediate professional counselling and help would be needed. Any harsh attitude – verbal, physical etc- would constitute violence that can scar young people for their entire lives. This then is a stage that is very delicate so much so that how it is dealt with will determine how young people will live for the rest of their lives. In the entire schemata, our society’s religious and social leaders must also rise to the occasion lending their moral and social authority to deal with this menace- but in a very empathetic and delicate manner.
The problem of drug addiction even though in its nascent stage is very serious. If unchecked, it can destroy the vitals of our society – hollowing it out from within. The old but poignant aphorism, ‘ a stitch in time saves nine’ is very relevant here. Before the problem assumes larger and graver proportions, society must rise to the challenge and help our younger folk to live fuller, healthier and productive lives. The alternatives are too bleak to countenance.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
The author is a columnist and writer based in Srinagar
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