The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, or World Drug Day, is marked on 26 June every year to strengthen action and cooperation in achieving a world free of drug abuse. When we scan the daily newspapers we come across many case studies related to Drug addiction.
I shall share few, youth died after overdose from drugs, teenage girl was thrown acid by a drug addict, youth withdraws money from the bank using the ATM card of her mother without her knowledge for purchase of drugs, youth involved in car and mobile theft caught with heavy consignment of drugs, a wealthy parent out of blind love gives excessive material resources to his child.
The child loses the sense of appreciating the value of property. One day driving his SUV car at a high speed on Parraypora road, he hit a bolder and received multiple head injuries, later it was detected he was overdosed with drugs; the cases are unending.
The prospect of quick money is a major trigger in drug surge. There was a scuffle between an orchard owner and his sons living in Qazigund over poppy cultivation. While the father was content with the earnings coming from the family orchard, his sons were adamant to replace the trees with poppy.
J&K formulated its first drug de-addiction policy in 2018, aiming to integrate de-addiction with healthcare systems in order to mainstream and destigmatise it. I shall report here few case studies related to drug addiction in Kashmir:
Case Study 1:
Shahid’s (name changed) mother has recently started noticing some changes in him. He has stopped playing cricket, he comes home late at night and sleeps all day and often misses his classes. He is irritable and is constantly asking for money.
Sometimes, he breaks into sobs and asks his mother to forgive him. His mother suspects that he may be stealing money from her purse. His results are suffering and his principal has issued a warning.. She is frightened of her son and has no close friends or relatives she can unburden her heart. She finds out that her son is taking drugs.
He started experimenting with drugs just for fun. She does not have the money or the courage to take her son to a de-addiction clinic. She is frightened that her neighbors will ask to vacate the flat and her son will be struck off from the rolls. Her life has become a living hell.
I shared this case study with a group of students during contact classes. At the end I asked the students to share their opinion regarding the rehabilitation of Shahid. This discussion proved very fruitful and students came with many out of box solutions to counter the menace of drug addiction.
Case Study 2:
I shall quote the drug addict “It was a cousin’s wedding. We had gone to our ancestral village in Pattan. We were a group of seven or eight boys. The top floor of the house was reserved for us. In a secluded room, we started a midnight party: first the whiskey, then cannabis and finally heroin. But as excitement peaked, my muscles cramped and skin crawled. I was soon drenched in sweat and collapsed.
Till 1 p.m. the next day, I was unconscious. My friends bathed me three times and concocted one excuse after another to explain my absence. I was lucky that I survived. In Kashmir, there has been a spate of unexplained, sudden deaths due to overdosing but in most cases; the families are loath to believe it. Even hospitals certify these deaths as caused by cardiac arrest to save the deceased’s kin from ostracism. The valley is a troubled place today, in more ways than one.
Case Study 3:
Saba (name changed) is a 23 year old girl admitted in a Drug Deaddiction Ward. Her bruised and scarred limbs make it difficult for her to walk and clearly display her battle with addiction. The blue and purple spots around her veins are a result of the years of intravenous heroin abuse.
Saba’s addiction to heroin began when, at the age of 20, she decided to train as a paramedic. The college in Punjab in which she enrolled turned out to be a scam and she soon realized that her parents had been duped of the rupees one lakh. .
The need for money pushed her into trying to find a part-time job. A hostel mate showed her some opportunities to help her earn a living, and later introduced her to people who could help her earn ‘even better with a little courier job’. At first, Saba had no idea that the consignments she delivered at various locations consisted of heroin.
When she found out, she began snorting small amounts of the drug, having been told by her colleagues that it would make her feel fearless. Soon, the snorting changed into injections of heroin.
Now Saba began spending all the money she earned as a heroin trafficker on the consumption of the narcotic. Her family had expected good results from her. But those hopes have been shattered.
Worse, as Saba continued to abuse heroin, she begged them for more money on one pretext or the other, pushing the family deeper into debt. Now Saba is done with the responsibility and guilt she once felt for putting her family into this situation.
“Mostly, I feel like ending my life and putting a stop to the embarrassment that my parents feel when they look at me.” She visits the hospital every week with her mother for opioid substitution therapy (OST). As Saba waited for her turn for the OST, a 14-year-old girl, frail and tired-looking, was helped out of the room by her mother.
The Class 8 student is a heroin abuser and no longer attends school. Dr Yasir Hussain Rather, the doctor at Drug De-Addiction and Treatment Centre (DDTC) SMHS hospital and treating this 14-year-old, said the girl has been ‘chasing’ heroin for three months.
Bullying at a new school, an older group of friends, easy access to money, and an over-controlling family: that is her story. The chances of women seeking treatment for substance abuse are ‘far less than those of a male counterpart’. The taboo is so serious; the stigmatization is so far-reaching that the person would prefer continued suffering to coming forward to seek help.
Case Study 4:
Chasing or snorting is usually the user’s first introduction to heroin, according to many youngsters admitted for the addiction treatment. Most start with a Rupees 10 currency note that is rolled to form a straw, through which they snort the drug. For those who want to ‘Chase the Dragon’, the powder is wrapped in the foil wrapper of a particular brand of chocolate, and then heated over a flame.
The fumes it emits are then inhaled said Gulshan (name changed), a teenager admitted for addiction treatment. Gulshan was introduced to the dark world of heroin by her boyfriend. She is relentless and remorseless, her mother complained to a therapist. “I lock her up in house while I go out to work as a housekeeper in many households. But she finds a way to get an injection,” the mother lamented. Dr Rather said it scares him to see girls and boys in their early teens indulge in heroin abuse. He blames the easy availability of heroin for the abuse that is becoming so common in Kashmir.
“Of course, there are other factors, such as mental health, lack of avenues for entertainment, and sometimes financial hardships that push people into drugs.
Case Study 5:
Before coming to the hospital, Ahmad’s secret morning breakfast, lunch and dinner was chasing heroin on a foil. His routine intake of heroin was 30 ml a day. He soon abandoned selling fruit as it could not fetch him enough money. From addict, he became a small peddler and started cultivating contacts and hunting for new ones to manage the growing expenses and thirst for heroin. Every day according to him it cost him around Rupees 2000.
He admitted that more than three people in his acquaintance died of an overdose. During overdoses, my brother has saved me multiple times. He has given me Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Most of his addicted friends are diagnosed with co-morbidities as the sharing of syringes transmits diseases. “Sometimes we used to exchange the same syringes, and most of the times we purchased on our own. I promised myself every day to give it up. But if someone consumes it for once, his life is destroyed forever. There is no looking back.
During my research I found significant number of my respondents from the delinquent category involved in drug addiction. Eliciting information from them for research purpose and say goodbye I did not found proper. Their lost childhood gave me sleepless nights, I was worried about this budding crop .If today it is somebody’s child tomorrow it can be my child so our collective responsibility is concern and empathy, I thought beyond research.
I contacted their teachers and parents and educated them how to pull their child from the tentacles of drug addiction and they cooperated. The parents were educated by sharing the following information with them: Parents need to play a crucial role in controlling drug abuse among their children. Since parental neglect, over hostility, rejection, marital disharmony play an important role in perpetuating drug addiction, parents have to take more care in keeping the family environment congenial and harmonious.
Since addiction does not develop overnight and it involves a process of evolution of losing interest in studies, activities and hobbies, indulging in irresponsible behavior, irritability, impulsive conduct and having a dazed expression, parents can locate the early signs by being alert and can make sure that the child withdraws from the habit.
In preventing drug abuse, the role of parents could be (i) communicate openly with the children, listen to their problems patiently, and teach them how to handle the problems, (ii) take interest in children's activities and their circle of friends, (iii) set an example for children by not taking drugs or alcohol, (iv) keep track of prescribed drugs in home, and (v) learn as much as possible about drugs.
The teachers were educated by sharing the following information with them: The teachers too can help much in the prevention of drug abuse; (i) they can discuss dangers of drug abuse with the students by talking informally and openly; (ii) they can keep themselves interested in their students' activities (iii) they can encourage them to volunteer information of any incident of drug abuse; (iv) they can talk about the problems of adolescence and guide students how to solve them; (v) they can help them in selecting right career options and setting realistic goals; (vi) they can encourage them to discuss their (students') crises (of family, peer group, money, etc.) with them and help them to the best of their abilities in facing these crises(vii) When we see the signs of drug/alcohol abuse or addiction, such as slipping grades, behavior problems, sleeping in class, red eyes, weight loss, missing a lot of classes, etc., there are several ways we can help. One approach to a conversation is to ask the student to see you after class.
When approaching a student about their drug or alcohol use, do it in a safe environment. Do not call them out in front of their friends or the entire class. That will lead them to shut down and break the trust you’ve established. Speak to the student privately. Let them know that you care about them.
Don’t argue with them. You want to build trust. If possible, share with them a story about someone you know who suffered from addiction. The best we can give our students is ourselves. Listen to what they say, watch what they do, be there for them when they act out, and take appropriate steps to help them.
Dr Showkat Rashid Wani, Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir
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.