Drug abuse among youngsters in Kashmir has taken the shape of epidemic and this number is increasing like a wildfire, which can have serious repercussions on our future generation. Drug abuse is the habitual and ongoing use of a substance in quantities or ways that are dangerous and detrimental to the user as well as to others. Substance abuse, in the words of the WHO, is defined as “perpetual or sporadic drug use inconsistent with or unrelated to accepted medical practice.” As per the study conducted by Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences Kashmir (IMHANS-K) titled as “Prevalence and Pattern of Substance Use in 10 districts of Kashmir; A 2022 survey’, Jammu and Kashmir has surpassed the number of drug abuse cases in Punjab.
The study reveals that during the pandemic period, in Kashmir Opioids were the primary substance of use (87.6 percent) with Heroin (75.8 percent) being the predominant drug of use. According to the medicos, the pattern of intake increased during covid-19 lockdown in the majority of the users and continued to consume substances because of boredom due to the lockdown.
According to a study “Drug Addiction in Kashmir: Issues and Challenges”, Individuals begin to use drugs with varied choices. Some people use drugs to relieve some medical condition but continue to use them after the medical condition is over. Some people who feel depressed begin to use the drug to self-medicate and get addicted to it. Sometimes a traumatized event or a relationship issue led a person to drugs. Some other people use the drug to escape from the pressures of life or to experience the pleasure of drugs or to comply with the peer group compatibility to have a different view of the world around them. This voluntary initiation into the world of addictive drugs has strongly influenced society’s view of drug abuse and drug addiction and their treatment.
What is more shocking, Kashmir has around 70,000 substance users and 52,000 of them are using IV heroin. Besides that, the out-patient Department and in-patient Department showed a surge in cases during the pandemic despite the lockdown and restrictions. Several studies conducted in the valley revealed that youth particularly between the age group of 17-30 involved in this menace of drug addiction. The common substances used by Drug Addicts in Kashmir are Cannabis, Brown Sugar, Heroine, SP tablets, Anxit, Alprax, Inhalants like Fevicol, SR solution, Thinner, Shoe Polish, Paint varnish and dirty socks are used as substances.
As per the doctors at IMHANS-K, on an average the consumption of heroin is 1 to 2 grams per day, which costs them around Rs 3000 to Rs 6000. Despite heroin being an expensive substance, the addicts get into various illegal things starting from stealing from family members, selling their gadgets, taking debts, thefts, and also getting into drug peddling to meet their requirements.
Unfortunately, if we see, the increasing crimes can be an offshoot of substance use but we don’t have to criminalise it. We already are aware of the health burden associated, but it also has a huge economic burden on an individual and the society as a whole. This economic burden also creates a market of huge revenue generation for those involved in this business.
If we see throughout the world, the drug related market is the third largest business with a turnover of 500 billion US dollars.
According to a recent study, the COVID-19 pandemic created a shift by accelerating e-commerce and leading to a major leap from offline to online shopping.
This trend has also encompassed the purchase of illicit drugs. While some illicit drugs are sold on the ‘clear web’, illicit drugs are available on the ‘dark web. According to the survey, the drug market overall showed no significant changes as a result of COVID-19 though there was initially a slowdown and global drug production remained largely unaffected throughout 2020. During the pandemic, in Kashmir, opioids were the primary substance of use with heroin being the predominant drug of use.
As per the official data, the number of patients seen in the OPD and IPD of drug addiction services was approximately 500 in 2015, which witnessed a manifold increase in the following years to an extent of approximately 24,000 patients in 2021 and 2022.
A total of 17,768 people were found to be dependent
on any substance suggesting that the prevalence of substance dependence was 1.95 percent, and amongst these, 16,389 were opioid dependent.
The valley residents in general, as well as government organisations and non-governmental organisations in particular, have faced many difficulties as a result of this bleak picture of drug usage in Kashmir.
The main issue is the valley’s illegal drug sales and trafficking, which police and the public in general must address. According to some recent reports, a lot of opioids are being grown in Kashmir, making them more simply available for consumption, and other psychiatric medications are also simple to get your hands on. With the complete support and collaboration of the people, police can combat this threat more successfully.
Secondly, the lack of facilities for the rehabilitation of drug users is another difficulty. To help the victims recover, we need more drug rehabilitation facilities. Another difficulty is the general lack of knowledge regarding drug addiction, detoxification, and rehabilitation. Governmental agencies, educational institutions, non-profit organisations, and other social work organisations must inform the public, especially the younger generation, about this issue.
Last but not the least is the fact to address the issue of parental and carer knowledge so that they can recognise this issue as soon as possible and offer the person they are caring for prompt assistance. A significant amount of the literature contends that strengthening a victim’s social network and teaching him or her positive behaviours can aid in the removal of this threat. Providing drug addicts with specific types of social and spiritual assistance helps them and gives them more capacity to overcome this problem because drug abusers frequently feel alone and alienated.