Female substance abusers seeking assistance witnesses a rise

IMHANS registers 55 cases since February 2023
Female substance abusers seeking assistance witnesses a rise
Representational Pic

Srinagar, Sep 15: In an alarming trend, the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) in Kashmir has witnessed a significant rise in the number of female substance abusers seeking assistance, with nearly 50 cases recently registered at their Drug Addiction Center.

According to official figures, over the past few months, the center has received more than 27 new cases and 21 cases in additional de-addiction centre in three districts of Baramulla, Anantnag, and Kulgam.

The age group of these females is above 15 years, early 20s, and 30s.

Majority of the cases are adolescent girls who are above 15 and in their early 20s.

From February 2023 till date, the Drug De-addiction Center at SMHS Hospital including three additional centres registered a total of 48 cases.

This surge in female substance abusers seeking help has raised concerns among the healthcare professionals and the local community.

According to the doctors, drug addiction has been associated mostly with males.

However, this recent trend is worrisome and steps need to be taken against substance abuse.

Professor at IMHANS, Dr. Yasir Hassan Rather told Greater Kashmir that in their survey, females accounted for only 1.7 percent.

"However, this does not mean we should be complacent,” he said. “It is disturbing to witness a rise in females with drug-related issues, although the numbers are quite small compared to males. Most of the time, we have found that individuals start using these drugs under the peer pressure of their husbands, partners, or friends who are already addicted.”

Dr Rather said that in some cases, they had found that these girls were working or studying in other states or metro cities where there was easy availability of drugs like in different parts of Punjab or Chandigarh.

“Furthermore, in most cases, we have found an underlying co-morbid psychiatric illness like borderline personality or mood disorders as well as childhood trauma-related issues that makes them more vulnerable to substances as a coping mechanism," he said.

Dr Rather said that the reasons could be multifaceted and might include factors like social pressures, mental health issues, trauma, peer influence, and easy access to addictive substances.

Dr Arjumand Fayaz, a postgraduate student at IMHANS, who is conducting the survey on substance abuse under the guidance of Dr Rather, told Greater Kashmir that the drug abuse among females in Kashmir was distressing.

"All cases are addicted to heroin. There are 27 females who are heroin users registered at drug addiction centre at SMHS and 21 females in additional centres in three districts. Of the 21 additional centres, seven females are registered in three other districts," she said.

Dr Arjumand said that the age groups of these females are above 15 years, early 20s, and married women in their 30s.

"Various social, economic, and psychological factors could be contributing to this increase in female substance abuse cases. Adolescent girls are getting involved in substance abuse through peer pressure groups out of curiosity and married women due to spouses’ addiction to drugs or through force or torture,” she said.

The doctors said that the stigma associated with drug addiction also deter many from seeking help, making it crucial to create a supportive environment for those struggling with addiction.

"To tackle this situation, authorities should consider a multi-pronged approach. This could involve, community involvement with increasing awareness, expanding treatment facilities, especially tailored to the needs of female patients, in various districts. Stricter regulations on the sale and distribution of addictive substances to reduce their availability," the doctors said.

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