Srinagar: Substance abuse has assumed alarming proportions in Kashmir, the numbers rising steeply every year. Nearly 7500 addiction cases had been seen in 2020 at GMC Srinagar, and in 2021, which is yet to be over, 13500 people abusing various drugs have been registered.
The GMC Srinagar runs two OPDs for people seeking treatment of various substance addictions, including lethal Heroin. One of these centers is at Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences Rainawari and the other at Community General Hospital SMHS Hospital. In the two centers together, 13500 OPD registrations were made between January 2021 and end of November 2021, hospital records show. The number is alarmingly higher than the registrations made in 2020 – 7403. In 2019, the number of registrations was 5113, although for a part of 2019, hospitals had become inaccessible to patients.
Srinagar district has the highest number of patient registrations owing to its proximity and population. However, in comparison to the two preceding years, patients belonging to Srinagar and reporting with substance addiction has more than quadrupled. In 2020, 952 registrations of substance abusers from Srinagar were made at the hospitals. In 2021, the number rose to 4183.
In other districts also, there is a pronounced increase in the abuse of drugs evident from the registration of cases. In 2021, 1666 people addicted to various drugs from district Anantnag were registered, 1565 from Baramulla, 1338 from Pulwama and 1247 from Kupwara. In all these districts, the numbers show a widespread abuse of various drugs and the tightening grip of addiction among youth.
As per the statistical analysis of people reporting and registering for treatment, nearly 80 percent are abusing Heroin through needles. The Intravenous (IV) abuse of Heroin, as per doctors treating for addiction, is the “last nail in the coffin” for the youth due to its difficult withdrawal process and highly dangerous nature. “It is one of the costliest drugs and just devastates not just the one abusing it but his family and the entire social fabric,” believes Dr Yasir Hussain Rather who heads the Drug De-addiction Center at SMHS Hospital. Dr rather has urged people addicted to substances to seek early treatment and support. “It is still possible to get back to a normal life if treated,” he said.
While discussing the reasons behind the increase in substance abuse in Kashmir, he said, it can be also assumed that the pandemic has increased mental health issues in young people and students. “Drugs are means of negative coping and it is destroying Kashmir and its youth,” he said, adding that the availability of drugs needed to be addressed aggressively. “I appeal to the Government and all those who can to come together and contribute towards a healthier and safer society for kids. This society needs to be drug free,” he said.
Dr Rather said the psychiatrists were seeing an increased number of students as they have been confined due to prolonged school closures and young people who have lost their jobs and livelihood due to COVID lockdown. “All these factors need to be looked into,” he said.