Let us come directly to the point: A recent study has revealed that in Kashmir, while alcohol consumption is avoided due to religious prohibitions, other substances such as opioids, cannabis, and sedatives have gained prominence. This notion needs to change and needs the entire socio-religious system to collaborate.
Data reveals a notable surge in the number of patients seeking treatment for substance use disorders in Kashmir Valley. From 2016 to 2019, the figures show a consistent increase, indicating a growing concern. However, the year 2020 witnessed a temporary decline in cases due to the COVID-19 lockdown and initial restrictions on seeking immediate help. This respite was short-lived, as the numbers skyrocketed in subsequent years, emphasizing the urgency of addressing this issue.
The study conducted at IMHANS highlights that substance use is predominantly prevalent among young males in the region. With a average age of 28, substance use affects the youth significantly. Furthermore, the data reveals that substance use is significantly seen among the unemployed population, with 25.2 percent affected. This correlation suggests the influence of socio-economic factors on substance use patterns and raises concerns about the well-being and future prospects of individuals impacted by substance use.
Among the various psychoactive substances, opioids, particularly heroin, emerged as the most common substances used in every district of the valley. The total prevalence of opioid dependence stands at 2.23 percent, indicating a significant burden on affected individuals and the overall economy. Such substantial expenditure not only affects individuals and their families but also has wider economic consequences for the region. The steep rise in crimes in Kashmir has largely been attributed to substance abuse.
While alcohol consumption remains largely avoided in Kashmir due to religious prohibitions, the data highlights variations in substance dependence across different districts. Opioids, cannabis, sedatives, and other substances exhibit different prevalence rates. Understanding these variations is crucial for tailoring effective prevention and intervention strategies. Factors such as socio-economic conditions and substance availability can influence the prevalence of different substances in each region. Addressing these regional variations and implementing targeted interventions can lead to more effective outcomes in reducing substance use and its associated harms.
The rising substance use cases in Kashmir Valley pose multiple challenges that demand immediate attention. Apart from the health risks associated with substance dependence, social consequences and economic burdens further exacerbate the issue. Effective strategies are required to address the root causes of substance use, provide accessible and quality treatment, and strengthen preventive measures.
A comprehensive approach is needed, including awareness campaigns to educate the public about the risks and consequences of substance use. Early intervention programs should be developed to identify and support individuals at risk. Additionally, there is a pressing need to improve access to quality treatment facilities, ensuring that individuals seeking help can receive timely and appropriate care.
Collaboration between healthcare providers, community and religious organizations, and government agencies is crucial for developing a comprehensive response to the rising substance use cases. These efforts must be tailored to the specific needs and challenges faced by various districts in the valley, taking into account socio-cultural factors and local sensitivities.
The increasing number of individuals seeking treatment for substance use disorders in Kashmir Valley necessitates urgent action. While the avoidance of alcohol due to religious prohibitions is commendable, the rise in substance use, particularly opioids, raises concerns about the well-being and future prospects of the population. By addressing the root causes, implementing region-specific interventions, and promoting a holistic approach to substance use prevention and treatment, stakeholders can work towards mitigating the impact of substance use on individuals and society as a whole.
To effectively address the rising substance abuse issue in the Kashmir Valley, it is crucial to create avenues for addiction treatment. The following suggestions can serve as the first and most important steps toward decreasing substance abuse:
Awareness Campaigns: Implementing comprehensive awareness campaigns is essential to educate the public about the risks and consequences of substance use. These campaigns should focus on dispelling myths, addressing stigma, and promoting a better understanding of addiction as a treatable medical condition.
Early Intervention Programs: Developing early intervention programs is vital for identifying and supporting individuals at risk. These programs can be implemented in educational institutions, community centers, and healthcare facilities. They should aim to raise awareness, provide counseling services, and facilitate early identification and referral of individuals displaying risky behaviors or early signs of substance use.
Accessible Treatment Facilities: Improving access to quality treatment facilities is crucial to ensure that individuals seeking help can receive timely and appropriate care. This includes strengthening the existing addiction treatment centers, and creating more inpatient facilities, equipped with trained healthcare professionals and necessary resources. Mobile treatment units can also be deployed to reach remote areas and provide essential services.
Strengthening Support Systems: Creating and strengthening support systems is crucial for individuals in recovery. This includes establishing support groups, peer mentoring programs, and helplines to provide ongoing assistance, guidance, and encouragement to those seeking recovery
Training Healthcare Professionals: Providing specialized training to healthcare professionals across specialties is crucial. This will enhance their capacity to diagnose, treat, and manage substance use disorders effectively. Training programs should cover identification of substance abuse, evidence-based treatment approaches, harm reduction strategies, and the importance of a patient-centered approach to care.
Holistic Approach: Adopting a holistic approach to addiction treatment is crucial. This involves addressing the physical, psychological, and social aspects of substance use disorders. Treatment programs should incorporate medical interventions, counseling, behavioral therapies, family support, and vocational rehabilitation to promote long-term recovery and reintegration into society. For that it is important that there are long term goals which need to be worked up on urgent basis.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.