Is it really that bad'!

The weekly column ‘Write Hand’ (GK, Sunday 8  July 2019) by Ajaz-ul-Haque began with doubting the seriousness of the drug abuse in our valley, though later on the writer does call for a concerted effort in curbing this menace, especially in terms of  “ the cultivation, the harvest, the smuggling, the trafficking, the sale, the transport and the whole chain of drug peddlers”. Although I’d agree with what the writer has said, the misuse of drugs is as serious as their production. Our youth have fallen a victim to drugs which is tearing our social fabric apart. Recently, the JK Police arrested many drug peddlers that has sent shock waves across the state for we can’t afford to lose yet another generation, the earlier one having been consumed by the gun since 1990s. This life is worth living and destroying it with drugs is a painful experience for the parents concerned and the society at large. Why do youngsters use illegal drugs is as serious a matter as why do people cultivate and/or development them? Both are criminals, but the former attribute it to different social, political and economic factors while for the latter it is just a matter of becoming rich by easy means.

Unfortunately, the world scenario in this respect is very dismal and we in Kashmir haven’t been able to escape from the impact of the global drug peddling. The UNDOC drug report of 2018 gives a terrifying picture of the global drug production and says that the opium—the world’s most used drug—production increased by 65% from 2016 to 2017 and reached 10, 500 tons at the beginning of the 21st century. The opium-poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached 9000 tons in 2017 which is 87% more than what it was in 2016. The total opium cultivation area increased the world over by 37% (420, 000 hectares) in 2017, and 75% of that area is in Afghanistan alone. Although seizures of opiates and heroin increased substantially in 2016, there continues to be a global crisis in overcoming not only this menace but also another the misuse of pharmaceuticals the world over—the non-medical use of opioids.  It has now become a major concern of both law enforcing agencies and the public health organisations. Different medical opioids are misused in different regions, causing an immense loss to life. For instance, in North America, fentanyl is mixed with heroin or other drugs that has led to an unprecedented number of overdose deaths. In Europe and West and North Africa, the non-medical use of methadone, buprenorphine and fentanyl mixed with heroin cause scores of deaths. In the USA alone 63, 632 people died in 2016 due to the drug overdose.  Asia and Africa have emerged as cocaine consumption and trafficking hubs. Global trends in both drug cultivation and using are quite horrifying. 10, 500 tons of opium and 700-1000 tons of heroin have been produced the world over, while their users reached a record high of 34.3 million in 2016. The seizures during 2016 themselves show the gory situation that the world is facing in terms of drug cultivation, trafficking and using. In 2016, Iran seized 528, 928, Pakistan 64, 608, Afghanistan 69, 665 and India 4903 kgs of opium. Morpheme seizures were 47, 048 kgs in Afghanistan, 10, 903 in Pakistan and 29 kgs in India. Heroin seizures were 23, 172 kgs inn Pakistan, 21, 098 kgs in Iran and 1683 kgs in India. As has been mentioned above, the non-medical use of different opioids that has now become a major concern in the world. The UNDOC report mentions that methamphetamine trafficking has increased substantially in East and South-East Asia and North America. It has become a second major threat in the US after heroin.

Opioids are the drugs that present the largest cause for concern due to the severe impact on the health of users. In India, a 2018-survey shows a dismal picture of the drug abuse, both narcotics and the non-medical use of opioids. In this regard, the misuse and trafficking of painkiller Tramadol was found to have devastated many lives. Among the negative impacts of the drug use, mental health disorders, HIV infection, hepatitis B & C and premature deaths due to their overdose have now become a major concern in India.

The Kashmir scenario presents a perturbing trend in the drug menace. A survey conducted by two scholars at the Aligarh Muslim University published in 2017 presented a very alarming impact of the drug use resulting in “psychiatric problems like Depression, OCD, PTSD, Drug Addiction, etc.” They quote UN report that put the number of drug-addicts in the Kashmir valley to 70, 000 that includes 4000 females also. Also quoted in the report is the data from the study of a well-know psychiatrist in the valley that puts the number of drug users in the valley to 2.11 lakh in the age group of 17-30 years. More frightening is the involvement of students of Class IX and XII that has become a worrying factor at the Drug De-addiction Centre at Srinagar. Among the substances used by drug-users are narcotics like Cannabis, Brown Sugar, Heroin and opioids like SP tablets, Anxit and Alprax. The drug users continue to find different ways of intoxicating themselves by using extraordinarily dangerous substances like Fevicol, SR Solution, Thinner, Shoe Polish, Paint varnish and dirty socks. The study laments that Kashmir has already lost a generation to the gun and another generation getting consumed by the drug menace. Unfortunately, not all drug using cases are reported in the valley. However, those admitted in Drug De-addiction Centre have been found using different substances—out of 1332 rehabilitated patients, 90 misused alcohol, 275 used Cannabis, 222 benzodiazepines, 25 cocaine, 165 substances like SR solution and 330 patients were poly-users (users of more than one drug together).

Cultivation of opium, poppy and Hashish has increased substantially in the valley over the past several years. Recently, the JK Police apprehended more than a dozen drug-peddlers that signals a dangerous situation of drug menace in Kashmir. It is time that we woke up and put our heads together to save our young generation from destroying itself. We can’t put entire blame on the chaotic situation in the valley. Parents need to keep a constant vigil on their children so that they don’t fall a victim to unscrupulous elements. The society at large needs to rise to the occasion and see that our youngster live a normal and responsible life. It’s really a serious matter both in terms of cultivation and use. Both need be curbed sooner than later.