Shopian, May 6: Tears stung his eyes as he recounted the day he rolled his first cannabis joint under peer pressure.
It all began inside a dingy room. Some three years ago, on one fine evening, 30-year-old Suhail Ahmad, a resident of south Kashmir’s Shopian district went to a friend’s place, and at his insistence, he smoked a cannabis-filled cigarette inside a dimly lit room.
“It was all for recreation and fun”, says a wiry Ahmad, who ran a small shop in the district. He, however, had never thought that dabbling in this kind of enjoyment would turn his life topsy-turvy and he would soon find himself caught in the throes of the hardest drugs.
A few months later, Ahmad was offered Chitta (a form of heroin ) by his friends at a friend’s wedding. “As I took it, I spewed badly. But after some time I got a strange feeling of relief and the next day I tried it again”, said Ahmad.
Ahmad soon became a habitual heroin abuser and would spend Rs 3000 to Rs 4000 to procure 1 gram of it which lasted barely for two days.
His new love for drugs drained all the money he had put away for his marriage and his business ran into losses. Meanwhile, he developed tolerance to the heroin due to repeated use of it and now needed higher doses, which simply meant more money.
“I myself was badly off. I started pleading with my family, friends, and even acquaintances for money”, he said.
After pausing and staring into space for a few minutes, Ahmad went on, “..And then I reached the point where drugs did not give me pleasure, but only made me behave somewhat like a normal person”.
He said that he used to feel excruciating pain in his entire body when he did not take the drugs. Ahmad also developed suicidal impulses and he attempted to hurt himself multiple times.
Finally, his family prodded him into leaving drugs and seeking medical help. He was taken to the Addiction Treatment Facility (ATF) at District Hospital Shopian (DHS) where doctors helped him to leave the drugs.
Now, it has been over a year since he completely called it quits. “Although late, it dawned on me that life is more precious”, Ahmad said.
Ahmad is not an isolated case who turned to drugs in the area. 35-year-old Hilal Ahmad Dar, another resident of the district, shows up at the ATF religiously for follow-ups. Dar began taking drugs in utter frustration after he suffered a whopping Rs 1 crore loss in the fruit business.
“My entire business crashed rather in a jiffy and I found myself in a bind”, Dar said. He said that he found drugs a form of escapism.
“But I was wrong as drugs only added to my financial woes”, Dar said. According to the data available with the ATF, around 452 patients have registered with the facility since 2021. Of them, 429 would use opioids, while 11 took cannabis, 2 alcohol, and 10 consumed nicotine.
Dr Adil Farooq Mir, Medical Officer at ATF said that over 90 percent of the substance abusers in the area use hard drugs like heroin. He said that peer pressure is one of the key reasons for substance abuse particularly among young abusers.
Informed sources told Greater Kashmir that over the past seven years, at least six persons including a woman lost their lives to the drugs. A group of concerned citizens from the area said that there has been a spurt in the number of substance abusers over the last few years and that is a larger concern for the entire society.
They said that law enforcement agencies must act tough on the drug peddlers to take the scourge of “drugs off society.” They blamed the easy availability of drugs and the failure of police to contain the menace.
“The graph of crimes like thefts has significantly shot up in the area and we believe that drugs are one of the key reasons for such crimes”, they said. (Some names in the story have been changed to protect their identity)