The National report on drug abuse in Jammu and Kashmir has set alarm bells ringing for the government as the figures have indicated an increase by 35 percent in drug abuse cases in 2021 as compared to the cases registered in 2020.
The national report, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has 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.
As per the figures, among the 1222 cases registered in 2020, 289 cases were those where a convict was found to be in possession of drugs for personal use or consumption while 933 cases were found to be in possession of drugs for trafficking.
However among 1681 cases registered in 2021, 357 cases were those where a convict was found to be in possession of drugs for personal use or consumption while 1324 cases were found to be in possession of drugs for trafficking.
In 2020, 1910 cases were registered under Liquor and Narcotic drugs related acts in J&K while as in year 2021, 2,399 cases were registered under liquor and narcotic drugs related cases.
The NCRB figures has put forth a challenging situation before the J&K government and the society as well, for which joint efforts are needed to eradicate the menace of drug abuse in youth of Jammu and Kashmir.
Going by the figures, one cannot be in a denial mode because the ignorance in accepting the real challenge which the drug abuse has posed can go beyond repairs.
Experts and medical practitioners have time and again opined that denial is no solution to address the problem.
Because unless the problem is acknowledged in the first place, there can be no solutions found or explored.
It is apparent that the first thing to be done at collective and individual levels is to acknowledge the problem, which has assumed alarming proportions in Jammu and Kashmir if official figures on substance abuse are anything to go by.
Besides the NCRB figures, 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 situation is really turning grave and can go from bad to worse if some out of box solutions are not collectively found by the government and the society.
Going by the latest figures and the AIIMS survey one has to acknowledge that mere holding seminars and conferences on drug abuse in schools, hospitals and other places have not proved fruitful in any case.
Over the past many years, the issue of drug abuse has become a challenge for the government and society as well as the youth have got enormously involved in it for several reasons.
The menace seems to be growing exponentially and engulfing people of all age groups including females who are also falling to prey to it.
In such a situation the whole focus of the government has come to it with officials and experts suggesting measures to overcome the drug abuse and suggest measures for counseling of the youth who have got involved in it.
From the last few weeks, the drug de-addiction has come to focus and meetings after meetings are also convened at government level as well.
The J&K Chief Secretary (CS) is also scheduled to hold a meeting on the issue and take a firsthand account of the situation. The J&K CS is believed to have issued directions to the Government Medical Colleges (GMCs) and other hospitals to take measures in order to control the menace of drug abuse.
There is no option for the government than to come out and find some out of box solution to put a check on it. The government has to engage the civil society and the experts and put in all efforts to end the menace which has consumed lives of youth of all age groups. The figures put forth by the NCRB report and the AIIMS survey have identified the gravity of the drug addiction problem in Jammu and Kashmir.
The magnitude of the problem can also be gauged from the fact that the problem of drug abuse in Kashmir was highlighted by a UN International Drug Control Programme survey in 2008, highlighting that almost 70,000 drug addicts were in Kashmir with 4,000 of them being women.
According to noted experts, from the previous studies and preliminary reports of present surveys, the age group involved in drug abuse is 12 to 27 years with lower and middle socio-economic status more than the higher status. The abusers include students and those associated with tourism and trade, according to them.
Professor and Head Psychiatry SKIMS Medical College Srinagar, Dr Abdul Majid in July said that they have 2000 patients registered at present at their de-addiction facility at Bemina who are predominantly using IV Opioids. And shockingly, he said, 450 of these users were Hepatitis-C positive. “So the previous percentage of 12 in this aspect has now risen to 25 in just a span of six months.”
According to figures of 2019, at least 3.5 percent population in Jammu and Kashmir uses Alcohol, 1.3 percent use cannabis apart from 4.91 percent who consume Opioids (with 25,098 IV users).
As the drug abuse has become a challenge, the Director Health Services Kashmir (DHSK) Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Rather recently chaired a meeting to discuss the month long Nasha Mukt Jammu and Kashmir campaign.
He directed all the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) of Kashmir division, Medical Superintendents of District and Sub District Hospitals to dedicate September for Nasha Mukt J&K campaign.
Various initiatives like Addiction Treatment Facilities (ATFs) at District Hospitals besides gearing up for the management of addiction disorder patients was also discussed in the meeting.
The officers called for close coordination between mental health, addiction treatment and tobacco control programs in order to help make the program successful.
It is good that the officers are giving their attention to the growing menace but it has to be ensured by the authorities that the initiatives discussed in meetings are implemented on ground as well. That is the only way by which we can expect a control on substance abuse.
Amid the growing concerns of drug abuse in J&K, awareness at community level invoking students, mohalla committees, imams and other senior citizens can play their role to counsel the youth and motivate them to stay away from these life consuming drugs.
The government should come up with policies and interventions like rehabilitation of affected people. More funds should be earmarked to make drug de-addiction campaigns a success at ground level. More stringent legislations required to crack the whip on drug abuse mafia.
Everyone in the society has a role to play to fight this menace. It cannot be done by the government alone. Before the situation takes an ugly turn, it is time to intervene and make a difference in the lives of those who are affected by drug abuse. Collaborative effort of institutions and societal awareness are keys to fight it in the first go. Policy interventions must follow.
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.