6 lakh in J&K abusing opioid drugs: Study

Doctors, mental health workers call it understatement
Representational Image
Representational Image

A recent survey by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) says 4.9 percent of J&K population has been abusing opioid drugs. But mental health workers and doctors consider even this alarming number an underestimate.

In February this year, the National Drug DependenceTreatment Centre (NDDTC) of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences(AIIMS), New Delhi, submitted its report "Magnitude of Substance Use in India".

The first-of-its-kind study, sponsored by the MoSJE, gives state-wiseestimates of the prevalence of drug abuse, measured through household surveyamong general population and respondent-driven sampling. Both legal and illegalsubstance use of abuse were studied.

The study reported that in J&K, 4.9 percent of population,which amounts to over 6 lakh individuals (as per Census 2011), was abusingopium derivate drugs including "doda, phukki, poppy husk, heroin, brown sugar,smack and pharmaceutical opioids".

Excluding north-eastern states, which have been devastated byhigh prevalence of substance abuse, J&K stands at number five in terms ofopioid abuse. Neighboring state of Punjab tops the list.

In terms of other drugs, the report states higher thannational average abuse of inhalants and sedatives, very low prevalence ofalcohol abuse, low prevalence of cannabis abuse and almost zero prevalence ofcocaine.

The state, as per the report has, 25098 people abusing drugsthrough injections, exposing them to a high risk of infections such asHepatitis B and C and HIV.

However, many mental health workers who were part of thestudy said that the number might be an understatement.

A psychologist who participated in the study said that sincedata collection primarily depended on household surveys— where the field staffcollecting data would walk randomly into a selected household and ask whethersomeone in the family was abusing drugs—most of the responses were expected tobe in negative.

In Jammu, however, he said, the staff did not face much of aproblem in collecting data.

He said that due to this and other factors, the figuresarrived at were likely to be lower than the actual prevalence in the state,Kashmir particularly.

Dr M Maqbool Dar, head department of psychiatry, expressedthe need for having a state-based holistic survey to assess the exact extentand nature of substance abuse in Kashmir.

"We have hospital based data but it haslimitations," he said. He underlined the need to have a "solid database" to implement State's Drug De-Addiction Policy better.

"We have two hands at task here – reducing availability andreducing demand and this needs coordinated efforts by every department, everycommunity and every individual," he said and added that the success of thisendeavour also depended on dependable intelligence.

DrYasir H Rather, associate professor of psychiatry at GMC,Srinagar, and in-charge of Drug De-Addiction Center (DAC), said that althoughthe AIIMS report was holistic and shocking, the actual prevalence of substanceabuse could be higher. "Our experience tells us that substance abuse,especially of opioids has risen over the years," he said.

He urged that a number of steps needed to be put in place toreduce the burden of drug abuse and resulting social and health issues in theState.

"Providing treatment which is easily accessible and devoidof stigma and taboo is the basic step," he said. He said that in addition,individuals and social groups needed to build pressure against people involvedin making drugs available.

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