In the dynamic and ever-changing landscape of Kashmir, a haunting reality looms large–Drug addiction has become a pervasive issue, casting a dark shadow over the region. Factors such as the region’s turbulent history, high unemployment rates and easy access to drugs have contributed to this crisis.
According to a recent report prepared by the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment, there are nearly 13.50 lakh drug users in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The report also reveals that around 1.68 lakh children in the age group of 10-17 years are among the drug users, consuming substances such as Cannabis, Opioids, Sedatives, Cocaine, Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS), inhalants and Hallucinogens. The most common form is intravenous heroin.
The consequences of drug addiction are devastating, with shattered lives and broken dreams becoming all too common. The devastating effects of drug addiction do not limit to the social structure of Kashmir; rather, it profoundly impacts the physical and mental health of the abusers. Experts warn that IV drug abusers face an elevated risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, heart diseases and TB.
Children and young adults, who should be the hope for the future, are the most vulnerable victims of this epidemic. Addressing this issue requires a multi-faceted approach, including raising awareness, implementing prevention programs, providing mental health support and tackling the root causes of addiction. Overcoming the issue of drug addiction in Kashmir requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach involving various stakeholders.
One of the first steps in tackling drug addiction is to raise awareness about its consequences and impact on individuals and society. Initiatives to educate the public about the dangers of drugs and addiction can help dispel misconceptions and reduce the stigma associated with seeking help. It has to go beyond the ambit of state functionaries, engaging civil society groups, religious preachers and parents.
Implementing effective drug prevention programs in schools, colleges and communities can equip young people with the knowledge and skills to make informed choices and resist peer pressure. Counseling services, listening therapy, real-life stories and value education should reach to the troubled young minds. These programs should focus on promoting healthy lifestyles, building resilience and providing coping mechanisms to deal with stress and challenges.
We need to ensure that individuals struggling with addiction have access to quality treatment and rehabilitation services. This includes establishing more rehabilitation centres and support groups where individuals can receive the help they need to overcome addiction.
Addressing the underlying mental health issues that may contribute to drug abuse is essential. Offering counseling and therapy services can help individuals cope with trauma, depression and anxiety, reducing their reliance on drugs as a means of escape.
High unemployment rates often contribute to the vulnerability of individuals to drug addiction. Creating job opportunities and vocational training programs can empower the youth and provide them with a sense of purpose and direction.
Law enforcement agencies need to crack down on drug trafficking networks and abolish channels that provide access to drugs in order to curb the availability of drugs in the region. Strict enforcement of drug laws can act as a deterrent to those involved in drug-related activities. Besides, there are no follow-up updates about the number of drug peddlers arrested almost every day. How these arrests can be rendered highly effective to reign in the menace needs more attention.
We should engage community leaders, elders and families to play a vital role in combating drug addiction. By creating a supportive and nurturing environment, families can provide a safety net for individuals at risk of falling into addiction. Parenting needs extra effort and time to understand the offspring well. Talking to your kids as friends is extremely important.
Establishing support networks and helplines can provide immediate assistance and guidance to individuals seeking help for themselves or their loved ones dealing with addiction irrespective of coming from any elite or poor economic class, being educated or not and belonging to both genders.
Encouraging sports, arts and cultural activities can provide positive outlets for individuals, diverting their focus away from drugs and engaging them in healthy and productive pursuits. Even as a lot of such stuff is happening around, the mystery of the rise in drug abuse remains unanswered.
Overcoming addiction is a journey that requires long-term commitment and support. Emphasizing long-term rehabilitation and aftercare services can significantly increase the chances of successful recovery and relapse prevention.
Advocacy for policy changes at the government level can lead to improved drug prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation services. It may also involve the allocation of adequate resources to address the issue effectively.
Partnering with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and support organizations that have experience in addiction recovery can strengthen efforts to combat drug addiction in the region.
Fostering a united effort among government agencies, community leaders, healthcare professionals, families and individuals, it is possible to overcome the catastrophe of drug addiction in Kashmir. Society needs to come out of a state of denial and accept the ugly reality. Through collective action and sincere commitment, the perturbing facts of drug addiction can be replaced with a brighter and healthier future for the people of Kashmir.