Our Drug Problem

JAMMU and Kashmir is experiencing a growing crisis of substance abuse, with an estimated 10 lakh residents or 8 percent of the population addicted to drugs, according to India’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The most commonly abused drugs in Jammu and Kashmir are heroin, cannabis, opioids and sedatives. The heroin epidemic is particularly worrying, as it is a costly drug that poses a financial burden on addicts, and sharing needles or syringes is leading to the spread of infections such as HIV and hepatitis C.

The problem of drug abuse in Kashmir is complex and multifaceted, with a range of factors contributing to its prevalence. One of the key drivers of drug use in the region is poverty and unemployment, which leave many young people feeling hopeless and marginalized. In addition, the ongoing conflict in the region has created a climate of fear and instability, which has further exacerbated the problem.

Steep rise in addiction has forced police to launch a concerted drive against drug abuse in the Valley over the last year.  In 2022, nearly 1,700 alleged drug peddlers were arrested in Kashmir. Police registered 1,021 cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. But it hasn’t made much of an impact on the ground so far. People are using psychotropic substances, barbazol and sleeping pills.

However, it is not difficult to see what is leading the youth towards drugs. One major reason is the political conflict of the past over thirty years which is taking its toll on the youth. According to unemployment figures, jobless rate in Kashmir is 24 percent. There are also a huge number of uneducated and unskilled youth who look forward to no future. The reigning political uncertainty and the humanitarian fallout of the past three decades have only reinforced the sense of hopelessness, leading youth to ease their frustration through drugs.

That said, the dismal state of affairs is no less aided by the easy availability of prescription drugs in the state. As a society, we are always inclined to trace these wrongs to the prevailing political conflict in the region and hence absolve ourselves of the responsibility to collectively play a role in redeeming the situation. We need to step up and face the humungous problem head on. The government, on the other hand, needs to actively engage young people in income-generating activities, to ensure that those who benefit from rehabilitation do not relapse and are embraced by their families and society once they change their ways.

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