Srinagar, June 26: The prevalence of drug abuse among youngsters in Kashmir has reached an alarming level, with the Drug De-addiction Centre at SMHS Hospital witnessing a significant increase in new cases.
According to official figures, over the past two years alone, the Centre has received more than 5,000 new cases. Between March 2021 and March 2023, the Drug De-addiction Centre at SMHS Hospital registered a total of 5,159 new cases in the Outpatient Department (OPD).
Out of these, 3,036 cases were registered from 2022 to 2023, while 2,123 new cases were recorded from March 2021 to March 2022. Additionally, there were 38,074 follow-up cases in the past year until March this year. The Inpatient Department (IPD) received at least 370 cases. Among the new cases, the majority were heroin users, accounting for 36,870 individuals, which is approximately 79 percent of intravenous drug users.
Doctors at the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) said that the OPD had a footfall of 36,648 males and 222 female patients. In the IPD, there were 328 male patients and 9 female patients. According to the official data, during the period from March 2021 to March 2022, out of the total 5,159 new cases, 2,123 were registered, along with 21,280 follow-up cases. The IPD received 374 cases during this time. The number of heroin users was reported to be 17,892, constituting approximately 75 percent of intravenous drug users.
In terms of gender distribution, the OPD saw 17,733 male patients and 159 female patients. The IPD had a total of 239 male patients and 3 female patients.
DrYasir Hassan Rather, Professor at IMHANS, who is also heading the Drug De-addiction Centre at SMHS Hospital told Greater Kashmir that Injection drug use is increasing in Kashmir.“With the increase in the number of IDUs in the valley, the burden of blood-borne infections (Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B) has also increased to an alarming level,” he said. Dr Rather said that they are receiving more patients addicted to drugs seeking the treatment and rehabilitation. " Since last year, the district administration has been strictly restricting the supply of drugs and arresting peddlers. This is the reason demand decreases as the cost of Heroin drugs increases from 3k to 6k. People who are addicted to heroin are now seeking the treatment as they find no other option," he said.
He said that the Infections like Hepatitis and HIV are increasing due to IV drugs. " If on a daily basis, we see 100 patients and screen them for Hepatitis approximately 70 patients test positive for it," he added. Doctors said that substance users may resort to criminal activities like drug peddling or petty crimes such as theft due to various reasons, including the need to obtain the drug itself, financing their habit, or due to cognitive impairment that impairs their decision-making abilities.
"Drug addiction is a serious issue that affects not only the individual but also his family, friends and his society. Drug addiction, specifically narcotic addiction and crime are often linked, as illicit / narcotic drugs impair their decision making and judgement and also leads to behavioural issues like aggression and suspiciousness, which leads to criminal activities," said DrYasir.