J&K Govt launches de-addiction policy to enlist support

The Jammu and Kashmir government on Tuesday released into public domain its maiden drug de-addiction policy document so that various departments and the masses are involved in the efforts meant for combating the menace of substance abuse in J&K.

While lauding the work of experts who contributed to drafting the policy, Financial  Commissioner Health and Medical Education Atal Dulloo said J&K is the only state in the country, after Punjab, which has a drug de-addiction policy of its own.

“In fact, it is a better policy because the thrust is on demand reduction,” he said.

Dulloo said that substance abuse required a multi-pronged strategy and the policy had incorporated social, medical and legal aspects to address the issue better. Two committees have been constituted to monitor the implementation of the policy at various levels, he added.

 Stressing the need to have standards of care in drug de-addiction centers and remove the taboo surrounding the problem, Dulloo said, “Drug de-addiction centers will be set-up with proper guidelines and standards of care will be maintained wherever these exist in State.” These centers are would be set up in district hospitals of the state.

Recounting the achievements of the policy since its approval in February this year, he said 165 patients had been registered already for Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) to help them come out of opium addition, a growing, life-threatening menace.

He said that two drug de-addiction centers were being set-up at Kulgam and Tral under a centrally-sponsored scheme this year to improve the access of facilities for those seeking help for substance abuse.

Prof Kaiser Ahmed, Principal Government Medical College Srinagar, said that substance abuse had touched all the families in state in some way or the other and had increased the burden of physical as well as mental illnesses here.

“Addiction has assumed the magnitude of a silent epidemic in J&K,” he said and added that despite the high prevalence, the awareness about the problem was low.

Prof  Kaiser said that substance abuse was responsible for deaths of a number of young adults.

“It is a reality in almost all emergency rooms in the state,” he said.

Prof Kaiser said substance abuse was responsible for an increase in crimes, increase in “moral degradation” and lower participation of the youth in economic activities of the state.

“If it is not addressed properly it can lead to annihilation of our young generation,” he said, while calling upon stakeholders to play their part in combating the threat.

He stressed upon the need to have a compassionate approach towards those under the clasp of abuse. “We need to end the sin, not the sinner,” he said.

Head department of Psychiatry Dr M Maqbool Dar said the Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (IMHANS) had successfully treated 12000 patients indulging in substance misuse across Jammu and Kashmir in its two centers.

Last year, the initiative of drug de-addiction policy took shape after Chief Secretary BVR Subramanayam took cognizance of extensive media reports about drug abuse.

The policy was reviewed by experts from premier Institutions of AIIMS, PGI, NIMHANS, TISS, Directorate of Health Services, GoI and also opinions were received from various civil society groups and the public in the state of J&K.

The policy was finalized on 10 December 2018 after incorporation of views and opinions from experts.  In January 2019, the SAC approved the draft policy.