It’s rarely any day when we don’t hear news about drugs in Kashmir. Paddlers being caught red-handed with huge quantities of drugs is no a longer jaw-dropping news. People read the news, curse the people involved, and within an hour forget about it. But what about the people who take these drugs; what happens to them and their families. In a conservative society like Kashmir these stories rarely get out of crisis.
As a volunteer, I visited a rehab center in Srinagar where I got a chance to meet the people who are the real victims; to meet their families and listen to their stories. As I entered the rehab center, in just soem seconds it was clear that something was strange with the place. One could sense that feeling in the atmosphere.
Patients on the first sight appeared normal - walking, talking, eating, like normal people. All the patients were involved in substance abuse of HEROIN which is a highly addictive narcotic drug that comes from the flower, the opium poppy also called brown sugar. It is very difficult to identify a heroin abuser based on physical appearance. They behave normally until they start getting withdrawal symptoms. When a person starts taking heroin his body becomes dependent on it and the abuser has to regularly increase the dosage to meet the demand of the body. Patients report that they could not even move or get out of the beds without taking it. “It was not our choice any more but compulsion. And when we were taking it again only then we were able to get back to normal,” most of them would say. One patient reported that every day I made promise to myself that I won’t take it but I always kept convincing myself that this one was going to be my last dose.
While asking the parents what took them so long to realize that their children are resorting to drug abuse they said they looked normal when they were with them. One parent said that my son used to stay in his room for prolonged periods and would sleep till afternoon that is when I got suspicious. One mother said that my children were asking for to much money from their father and he used to give them. “I warned him many times. Sometimes children asked him for semester fees four times for the same semester. One day they were sitting in their room with their friends. I decide to over hear their conversation and heard them talking about something TICHU. When I searched this word online I found they were talking about drugs. “
It not only affect the health of the abuser it also destabilizes the family financially Heroin usually gets sold in grams with one gram costing about 5000 to 6000. No body buys that munch initially. “In the beginning, we get the drug for free from the paddler,” one patient said. “But that only until we become dependent on it. Then he starts charging for the same. In the beginning, it cost me around 1100-1500 per day, but as my dosage increased my per day expenses crossed 6000 mark. One patient said that it was getting impossible for him to arrange 6000 per day. “I tried to quit but in the fear of getting withdrawal symptoms, I stole the gold of my sister on her wedding night.” It is now a known thing that when they run out of money they either steal or they offer to work with the pedlar to bring new customers.
The attitude of society towards these people needs to change. We need not see them as bad people, but as victims of an unfortunate situation.
Haseeb Wani is a PG student and a NSS volunteer