rug addiction — primarily a brain disease characterised by an uncontrollable desire to consume drugs — is turning out to be a new menace to the Valley of Kashmir. Known as resh vaer and pir vaer (the land of Muslim saints and seers), the place is, unfortunately, witnessing socio-economic and political turmoil for the last three decades. This has lead to an epidemic of psychiatric disorders among all the sections of its population. The intensity of the conflict from the past many years has led to an abrupt rise in drug addiction, especially among the youth, who find drugs to be the ultimate cure.
As revealed by the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital Srinagar (SMHS), from 2016 to March 2017, March 2017 to March 2018, and from March 2018 to March 2019, around 489, 3622 and 5113 patients respectively have visited the hospital’s Outpatient Department (OPD).
The number, however, has increased tremendously, in three months of last year. From April to June 2019, 1095 patients visited the centre.
According to a survey by United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP), more than 70000 Kashmiris — out of which 4000 were women — have fallen prey to drugs. Another survey done by India’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) reveals that as of February 2019, 600000 people of Jammu and Kashmir use opioid drugs, with 80 per cent of them using heroin and morphine.
The unfortunate part of drug addiction is more adults are prone to it. As revealed by Government Psychiatric Hospital Srinagar, 90% of the drug consumers of the Valley belong to the age group of 17-35 years. This means the youth are more prone to it. While they are economically the most productive and sexually the most reproductive members of any society and should have been contributing to the betterment of the society, they are being drawn towards destruction by this menace, leading to the threat of an ambiguous future of Kashmir.
The problem with this menace is not only the destruction of the life of drug consumers, but the worst part is in store for the family and finally to the entire nation. The effects of the drugs he earlier had consumed in anticipation of freeing himself from the social as well as political glitches shifts over time, consuming him not only emotionally, but socially as well as economically.
The druggie suffers from health problems such as lung and mouth cancers and then gets caught up with another major issue — finance. He reaches a state when more and more drugs are required, resulting in his indulgence in illegal and criminal activities like robberies and murders. His life and home convert into hell, his family faces a financial, social and mental dilemma. Quarrels/clashes often take place on trivial issues due to his bizarreness. Children lack parental care and consequently become prone to inferiority complex. Finally, it leads to the degradation and destruction of society as a whole.
The conflict, economic slowdown, unemployment, peer pressure, easy availability of drugs, corruption and breakups in ‘love’ affairs are the sparking reasons for the rise in drug abuse. Kashmir issue — the longest surviving conflict of the world — has led many of its inhabitants to find drug addiction their best refugee. The increasing subjugation and atrocities have largely promoted the rise in psychiatric disorders, eventually leading to drug addiction. The intensity of conflict from the past few years along with economic stagnation has resulted in the abrupt rise of unemployment — the concerns of livelihood and family responsibilities — which has pushed the populace, mainly the youth, towards depression.
Unfortunately, the youth have found drugs to be the best cure for depression. Corruption during the employment initiatives and other government exercises have also steered the youth towards the menace. On the other hand, due to the easy availability of drugs in almost every corner of the Valley, getting used to drugs has become a cakewalk for them.
However, several steps have been taken on the government level to stop the spread of the menace, such as the establishment of drug de-addiction centres. In Kashmir, there are many such centres. Among them, some leading ones are those at Police Control Room and SMHS Hospital in Srinagar, which have done a good job to check the menace. On the local level, religious preachers/institutions have played an important role to stop this menace by organising drug de-addiction programs and delivering Friday sermons etc.
Being a conflict-ridden society, religious institutions and leaders are expected to play a greater role than the state to help and counsel people to get rid of the menace of drugs. It is high time they, instead of indulging in the never-ending polemical debates, invest their energy in correcting this and other such issues which have ruined our society. We must wake up against the menace to save our human resource so that our next generation will again see the Valley of Kashmir as resh vaer and a better place to live.