By Mushtaq Rather
Drug addiction has surged dramatically over the past decade, catching everyone off guard and leading to catastrophic consequences not only for the victims of drug abuse but also shrouding our entire societal fabric in a cloud of despair and gloom. It is primarily a collective failure of society to prevent our youth from succumbing to the drug menace. Unfortunately, as integral members of society, our approach has been abysmal in recognizing and addressing such activities in our midst, often dismissing the potential fatal consequences. We often think, “It’s not related to my immediate family members, so why should I speak out against it?” This pessimistic approach has allowed the drug menace to deeply infiltrate our social structure, making it seemingly uncontrollable. The damage already inflicted is irreparable, as we’ve lost numerous young individuals to drugs, with many others seeing their potential and careers tarnished. The economic distress imposed on the families of drug-affected youth is unimaginable.
The geographical location of Jammu and Kashmir makes it susceptible to drug trafficking, especially across the Union Territory. The Kashmir valley is one of the hardest-hit regions by drug abuse. Various factors contribute to this menace, including unemployment, the conflict-ridden history of Jammu and Kashmir, peer pressure, unfulfilled aspirations, expectations placed on children by parents, poverty, and corruption. Researchers have identified major drugs of abuse in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, such as tobacco, cannabis, alcohol, benzodiazepines (including sleeping pills like alprax and valium), opiates (like codeine, heroin, and morphine), brown sugar, and inhalants (like fevicol, SR, glue, paint thinner, petrol, shoe polish, etc.).
Drug addiction has become a matter of grave concern, with a significant increase in the consumption of hard drugs like heroin and other opioids. Data presented by the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment in Parliament is alarming, indicating that nearly 10 lakh people in Jammu and Kashmir are victims of the drug menace. This number has seen an unprecedented upward trend over the years. Shockingly, 1.44 lakh people in Jammu and Kashmir are active consumers of cannabis, including 36,000 females. Such statistics are a shock to the collective conscience of our society, as the most vulnerable segment is increasingly falling prey to substance abuse. It’s worth noting that 5.34 lakh men and a substantial number of 8,000 women are involved in opioid addiction, while 1.6 lakh men and 9,000 women are victims of sedative addiction. A recent survey by the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) in Srinagar has revealed that Jammu and Kashmir has even surpassed Punjab, known as the drug menace capital of India.
Official figures from the Jammu and Kashmir Government indicate that 41,110 drug addicts sought treatment for drug abuse in Kashmir in 2022, nearly double the number from the previous year, which was 23,403. Dr. Yasir Rather, a Professor of Psychiatry at IMHANS, Srinagar, attributes this increase to the rising cost of heroin due to a decrease in its supply. He also notes that the cost of a gram of heroin has risen from Rs 2000-3000 in 2022 to around 6000 in 2023. Consequently, many abusers have been left with no choice but to seek treatment. According to a study titled “Prevalence and Pattern of Substance Use Disorders in Kashmir (2022)” conducted by IMHANS, heroin is the primary drug in the valley. This study also reveals that the average cost incurred by one person consuming a gram of heroin per day amounts to 8,183, signifying significant economic implications. The study further indicates that over two-thirds of drug addicts started substance abuse between the ages of 11 and 20. Additionally, 91.9% of patients studied exhibited multi-substance abuse, with inhalant use being predominant among adolescents. Nicotine, cannabis, alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines were more prevalent in the age group of 21 to 30.
Research in the southern landscape of the Kashmir valley highlights a disturbing lack of awareness regarding drug de-addiction centers among drug abusers and their families. A significant percentage of respondents are unaware of the existence of these centers, NGOs working in the field of drug de-addiction, or the centers operating in the Kashmir valley. This widespread unawareness exacerbates the problem and underscores the need for extensive efforts to combat this menace.
Drug abuse and the rise in societal crime
It is a well-acknowledged reality that the increasing trend in drug abuse cases has led to a surge in heinous crimes within society. The need for a substantial amount of cash to procure highly sedative drugs has pushed drug abusers to explore illegal means to acquire them, no matter the cost. One of the most concerning ramifications of drug abuse today is the rise in homicide cases, especially among young individuals. It has become commonplace for drug abusers to resort to theft from their families and relatives to sustain their drug addiction. Dr. Yasir Rather, a Professor of Psychiatry at IMHANS Srinagar, unequivocally asserts that the escalating crime rate in Kashmir may be linked to the surge in heroin abusers. Some addicts resort to burglary and even murder out of desperation and frustration to acquire drugs. Over time, some addicts become drug peddlers to ensure a continuous cash flow.
For instance, in March of this year, a 32-year-old resident of Dangerpora village in Sopore, North Kashmir, strangled his 70-year-old mother. The evident reason was the drug addiction of the perpetrator, and his sole intention in murdering his mother was to satisfy the unjust demand for money to buy drugs. Another similar incident occurred in Gopalpora village, Anantnag, where a teenager, along with a friend, brutally attacked his mother, blaming his father initially for the heinous crime. Such incidents are not isolated and are unfortunately becoming more common in the Southern region of the Kashmir valley. The incident of a baker in Aishmuqam Pahalgam has also shaken the conscience of residents. The baker, allegedly under the influence of drugs, attacked his own family members and neighbors, resulting in the death of three individuals, including his mother, and injuring seven others.
Our society is facing a critical crossroads, and we seem to be hesitant to take the necessary actions to curb this menace. It is high time that we address this issue with a sense of urgency and implement a comprehensive action plan to counter the drug menace.
A Remedial Action Plan to Counter the Drug Menace
1. Establishment of Drug De-Addiction Centers: The widespread lack of awareness about the existence of drug de-addiction centers highlights the urgent need to operationalize large-scale centers accessible to substance users seeking treatment.
2. Positive Parental Support: Parents play a pivotal role in keeping their children away from drugs. Unreasonable expectations placed on children by their parents can lead to increased mental distress. When children can’t meet their parents’ expectations, they often turn to drugs to cope with the resulting mental trauma, trapping themselves in the vicious cycle of drug abuse. Parents should provide support to their children and collaborate with them in pursuing careers of their choice, rather than pressuring them into careers they don’t desire.
3. Community Support: The community can be an effective tool in combating the drug menace, provided it acts as a cohesive unit, vocally opposing the unscrupulous elements.
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 educator and research scholar
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.