A recent study by the Department of Mental Health and Neurosciences in collaboration with the Department of Health Services suggests a serious increase in drug abuse across all districts of the Kashmir valley.
The findings of the study have revealed a dark underbelly that needs immediate attention. The study has concluded that the deadly opioid drug heroin has become the main source of addiction, replacing milder drugs such as painkillers and cannabis.
The survey also concluded that most of the addicts are in the age group of 17 to 33 years, though doctors have previously reported addicts as young as 10-year-olds in the region. The survey has also found that the addiction is widespread among all sections, whether rich or poor, men or women, young or old.
The menace is so widespread that Kashmir may now be leading most of the states in India in a grim record of highest number of drug addicts. A study by AIIMS had noted that Punjab, the erstwhile drug capital of India, has 1.2 percent opiate users while the latest Kashmir-based study has found the percentage of opiate users at 2.5 percent.
The study has found that most of the addicts are daily users and a heroin addict consumes around 1 gram of the dangerous drug on a daily basis, costing around 3000-4000 INR. The severity of the drug abuse can be gauged from the fact that, according to the study, 33 thousand syringes are used to inject heroin on a daily basis in Kashmir.
While the study has provided a dataset of the pandemic of heroin addiction in Kashmir, the reality was prevalent and visible in the region for the last several years.
The growing number of heroin addicts in Kashmir is a troubling reality that will have an impact on generations to come, if it is not contained immediately.
The rampant use of heroin and other drugs has been happening across Kashmir for the last several years. Many young men and teenage boys died because of the overdose of drugs and their families, fearing ignominy, concealed the cause of these deaths. In the process, these concealments caused more harm than good to the society.
The horrendous increase in the drug abuse is a collective failure and all sections of the society are to be blamed – the family, the civil society and the administration.
The family being the first and immediate circle of the drug addict should respond instantly to the first signs of addiction. The failure of guardianship by parents is the first failure and the first step towards drug addiction. A stroll along Lal Chowk’s bund or any other place is the first exposure towards the scale and intensity of the drug addiction as young boys and girls, some in school uniforms, walk the dangerous paths.
While the failure of families to respond instantly and in time is the first failure, the civil society including the mohalla-level committees are also failing to respond to the crisis. The committees should respond proactively and prevent their colonies and neighbourhoods from becoming a hub of addicts and peddlers.
The mosque leaders and clerics should also initiate and lead a sustained struggle to create awareness against the drug abuse and should be joined by doctors to lead a major awareness campaign.
Schools, higher secondary schools and colleges also have the potential to become fortresses against drug addiction by administering counseling and reporting such cases to the administration. The education institutions also need to guard their campuses from becoming a hub of drug peddlers as many college playgrounds are frequently visited by known drug-peddlers.
The biggest of the onus in the fight against drug addiction lies on the administration including police. The police in Kashmir have a robust and hi-tech surveillance mechanism and it is not possible that they cannot effectively deal with this crisis.
Policing in Kashmir needs to prioritize the initiative against drug peddlers across all districts of Kashmir valley. There is also a strong requirement to book them under stringent acts of law including frequent imposition of Public Safety Act. This is the only way to keep the drug peddlers out of business and stop the inflow of drugs into the society.
The police also need to go after the entire structure of drug peddlers and not merely go after the lower rung peddlers. The crackdown on the entire structure, those involved in procuring consignments of drugs and those involved in transportation and logistics, should be a top priority.
Without the proactive involvement of police, it is not possible to contain this deadly scourge. The administration needs to incentivize the fight against drug-abuse.
All sections of the society need to play their role. Homes, schools, mosques should become part of the campaign against this devastating avalanche of drug abuse. Leniency or laziness on part of anyone in the society can become a costly affair. So effective awareness and educational programmes and a simultaneous and swift crackdown on drug peddlers and kingpins is what is needed to end Kashmir’s plunge into further darkness.