Unabated Rise of Drug Abuse in Kashmir

By Bilal Gani 

DRUG addiction is a hot topic in J&K today. The obvious reason for this debate is an alarming increase in drug addiction cases in J&K. The recent extremely upsetting report  by the Government Medical College’s Psychiatry department has revealed that Kashmir has surpassed Punjab in drug abuse cases and is currently at the number two position among the top drug abuser states in the country. With Northeast in India topping the drug abuse list, Kashmir is not far behind. J&K is on the powder keg of drug addiction.

Addiction is a neuropsychological disorder characterised by a persistent and intense urge to engage in certain behaviours, one of which is the usage of a drug, despite substantial harm and other negative consequences. Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behaviour and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medicine. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine also are considered drugs. When you’re addicted, you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes.

Drug addiction can start with experimental use of a recreational drug in social situations, and, for some people, the drug use becomes more frequent. For others, particularly with opioids, drug addiction begins when they take prescribed medicines or receive them from others who have prescriptions.

Globally, some 35 million people are estimated to suffer from drug use disorders and who require treatment services, according to the latest World Drug Report, released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  The most widely used drug globally continues to be cannabis, with an estimated 188 million people having used the drug in 2017.

As per the study conducted by Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences Kashmir (IMHANS-K) titled as “Prevalence and Pattern of Substance Use in 10 districts of Kashmir; A 2022 survey’, J-Kashmir has surpassed the number of drug abuse cases in Punjab.

Thousands of youth in Kashmir are slipping into the dark alleys of drug addiction as the valley has been flooded with a huge quantity of heroin usage. The J-Kashmir administration had said as per a consumption survey there are at least 6 lakh residents affected by drug related issues in the region.

Over 33 thousand syringes are used to inject heroin by drug abusers in the Valley on a daily basis. Heroin is among the most common drugs used by these abusers. The study shows 90 percent of drug abusers are using heroin while the rest are using cocaine, brown sugar, and marijuana. The survey has also revealed that most of the drug abusers are in the age group of 17-33 years. Unemployed youth are one of the main consumers of these drugs. And the number of drug abusers in the valley has crossed 67000, while 33000 are injected heroin using syringes. Drug use has become an easy escape from the fluctuating situations of life.

Among the most potential causes attributed to the skyrocketing drug abuse in Kashmir are, unusual increase in psychiatric disorders, uncertainty of the conflict, unemployment among the youth and non-availability of recreational activities.

Our youth see it as an escape from the uncertainty and trauma of living in a conflict region. But it has unnecessarily taken a heavy toll on our youth who are the future of our society.

Our valley is in the grip of an epidemic and the biggest victims of this epidemic are our youth.  Over the last few years, there has been an extraordinary increase in anti-social crimes in our valley.  It is said that the main reason for these crimes is the increasing use of drugs among the youth. Drug use has become a scourge for us  which is giving rise to many social evils. The growing trend of drugs in the Valley should be of concern to all of us as it is eating up the vitals of our society.

Diagnosing drug addiction (substance use disorder) requires a thorough evaluation and often includes an assessment by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a licensed alcohol and drug counsellor. Although there’s no cure for drug addiction, treatment options can help you overcome an addiction and stay drug free.

The eradication of drug addiction needs a multi-pronged approach. There is an urgent need for legal, social and religious measures to prevent drug addiction.  Although the state government has taken strict measures to eradicate the scourge of drugs, several serious measures are needed to eradicate this epidemic.  The laws that are in force for the prevention of drug abuse should be implemented in a better way and these laws should be enforced and made stricter.  Cultivation, sale and misuse of cannabis and opium should be completely banned. It is necessary to have  cooperation between the administration and the people.  Only then can our society get rid of this evil.

There is an urgent need for measures not only by the government but also by the society to end this scourge. Civil society groups need to be mobilised to stop drug trafficking at the local level. Parents should monitor the activities of their children and protect them from getting addicted to drugs and falling into the clutches of drug addicts. Although there has been a lot of awareness among people about the harmful effects of drugs, this awareness needs to be spread to those areas and people who are unaware of it.

Another aspect of drug abuse prevention is the rehabilitation of victims of this scourge. But recovery must be consistent and victim-focused. The rehabilitation centres should take proper care of the psychological and emotional needs of the victims, so that the victims can fully recover and move towards a prosperous future.  These rehabilitation measures include preventive education and awareness building, capacity building, skill development, vocational training and livelihood support for ex-drug addicts, among other relevant measures to stop this epidemic before it is too late.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

  • The author is an independent researcher and Columnist 

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