Over the past few years, Jammu and Kashmir has seen a steep rise in the burden of physical, mental and substance-use disorders over the past two decades.
Different studies, surveys and various reports have shown an alarming shift in the pattern of substance use in J&K unlike the past when J&K remained devoid from the problem of addiction for long.
The issue of drug abuse has become grave as the studies have shown a steep increase in the consumption of drugs by youth in different age groups.
The menace of drug addiction is widely spread, fast rising and is quickly taking the form of an epidemic.
A latest study by the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) Kashmir, Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar has stated that the places where a bus cannot go, the deadly drugs reach.
As per the study, the scientific data based on community surveys on drug related problems in Jammu and Kashmir show that deaths have started occurring directly due to over dosages, convulsions, and cardiac arrests and indirectly road traffic accidents.
The study done by IMHANS has found that over two-third of patients start substance abuse in the age group of 11-20 years.
As per the study Nicotine addiction figures on the top as the survey has found that the most common substances of abuse identified included nicotine (94.4%), medicinal opioids (65.7%), cannabis (63.6%) and benzodiazepines (45.5%).
The study has found that 43.4 percent addicts consume other prescription medications, alcohol (32.5%), inhalants (11.1%), and cocaine (7.5%) while poly-substance abuse was found in 91.9 percent of the studied patients.
Earlier, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its report revealed that there was an increase by 35 percent in drug abuse cases in 2021 as compared to the cases registered in 2020.
The NCRB report revealed that 1,222 cases under NDPS, 1985 act were registered in J&K in 2020, however, the number has increased to 1,681 in 2021.
Earlier, in a report by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on the magnitude of substance abuse in the country, J&K was placed at 5th spot and the UT has more than six lakh people affected by drug abuse.
The figures have set alarm bells ringing for the J&K government to control the use and peddling of drugs. However, the J&K government is equally committed to control the menace and is taking serious efforts to keep youth of all age groups away from the substance abuse.
Various campaigns and awareness programmes have been launched by the government to come up with out of box solutions to handle the situation.
Besides, the draft drug de-addiction policy of the government has also come up with a ‘4As strategy’ to eradicate the menace of drug abuse in Jammu and Kashmir.
The strategy has focused on increasing Awareness, restricting Availability to drugs, increasing Affordability and Accessibility to treatment programmes.
If implemented in letter, these strategies can act as the remedies to eradicate the menace of drug abuse in J&K.
The awareness programmes targeting entire communities and high risk populations can focus on enhancing the protective factors and reducing the modifiable risk factors in the individuals and their environment.
The Availability to drugs should be restricted which can be achieved by enforcing the already existing laws vigorously and checking their compliance at regular intervals.
The de-addiction policy has called for promotion of activities that protect against substance abuse.
While the draft drug de-addiction policy has suggested certain measures to overcome the problems, the situation in J&K has turned from bad to worse as there are various factors associated with the substance abuse.
The drug addiction usually leads to drug peddling and the menace perpetuates.
The IMHANS study has stated that the enormity of the problem can be gauged from the fact that those seeking help themselves or because of their families only represent the tip of the iceberg.
A huge number of hidden population of substance users in the community do not come to fore for myriad reasons.
The study has recommended that if a proper policy is not followed to curb this menace, we might lament the loss of a generation.
Over the years, drug addiction has become an area of gross concern. We must realise that the times have changed and so have social benchmarks.
“Drug abuse in the last few years has increased manifold and is fast proving malicious to the society by causing physical, psychological, and intellectual decay,” reads the IMHANS study.
This has also resulted in increased morbidity and mortality, enhanced crime rates, decreased productivity and wastage of economic potential of the young generation.
The IMHANS study has reported that the drug abuse has a great impact on the economy as the resources spent on law enforcement, drug policies and other efforts aimed at drug interdiction which are actually the resources not spent on education, health- care, employment and other areas.
It has an equal impact on public safety as driving in an intoxicated state impairs perception, attention, cognition, coordination and increases reaction time that leads to accidents.
“Drug addiction also leads to an increase in crime rates and violence in the society,” the report reads.
The study has reported that the gender differences have been identified as huge determinants in the onset of addictive behaviours, including drug abuse.
“Women are acutely affected by particular consequences of drug abuse, such as sexually transmitted diseases, domestic violence, in addition to being more likely to be affected by drug- facilitated crime,” it reads.
The study has reported that the parents who abuse drugs are more likely to live in homes in which relatives, friends, and strangers also use drugs, exposing children to possible emotional and physical harm.
“Children that have to be removed from such environments are more likely to engage in crime, drug use and delinquency,” it reads.
The draft drug de-addiction policy formulated by IMHANS besides putting forth the real situation of drug abuse has also come up with various measures and initiatives to address the alarming problem in a holistic manner. A lot now depends on the seriousness of the authorities to realise the goals. The policy is a good document which needs to be followed in letter and spirit if we need to nip the evil in the bud.
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.