Fighting the drug menace

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By: Dr Adil Rasool Malik

C.G.Yung has aptly quoted that “every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether it be narcotic, alcohol, morphine or idealism”. Human beings have a tendency to escape in times of distress and sometimes when the body is in a state of distress, drugs are often advocated to help the body cope with the stressors. People however continue using them beyond the stipulated duration or get addicted to them. Sometimes drugs are consumed voluntarily by individuals to enter into an altered state of mind and escape from the realities of life. Regardless of the initial stimulus, the dependency on drugs to alleviate situations often takes unprecedented toll on one’s life emotionally, physically and socially.

To draw a stark differentiating line between drug abuse and drug addiction is often not possible. Abnormal and inappropriate use of mind altering drugs when prescribed or purchased over the counter is termed as Drug Abuse, but when this transitions into a state of addiction is often not clear because different people attain the state of addiction at different stages.

Drug Addiction, on the other hand, is clinically defined as the continued compulsive use of drugs in spite of their adverse effects on health, social and emotional consequences. Drug addiction has shown to have various mind altering effects. It usually manifests with the person isolating themselves from friends and family causing strained relationships. Their main aim becomes the procurement of the drugs – by hook or by crook. This often leads to them being a part of criminal offenses and further causing psychological damage and resentment from society while heightens their will to isolate. Over due course of time, the dependency increases to a craving making it difficult to stay without the drug.

People in Kashmir have been a centerpiece to physical, social and emotional abuse for decades. This scenario has pushed a substantial proportion of its youth towards substance consumption and eventually substance abuse. A great number of youth is now regularly being diagnosed with various psychiatric conditions like OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, and depression and so on. As per recent survey, 65 to 70% students in Kashmir are drug addicts who include into gateway drugs too and around 26% are female students. As per Government Psychiatric Disease Hospital (GPDH) statistics, 90% abusers belong to the age group of 17 to 35 years with a lifetime prevalence of drug addiction.

The director of Drug De-addiction centre Srinagar Dr. Khan has stated that “the trend of drug abuse is on the rise among school children as we have registered many such cases, where students of Class IX to XII are involved with drugs”. Renowned psychiatrists in Kashmir Dr. Margoob and Dutta in their books have reported that there are around 2.11 lakh drug addicts in Kashmir valley. The common substances used by Drug Addicts in Kashmir are Cannabis, Brown Sugar, Heroine, SP tablets, Anxit, Alprax, Inhalants like Fevicol, SR solution, Thinner, Shoe Polish, Paint varnish and dirty socks. The alarming rate of this menace in Kashmir leads the academicians and experts to comment that “We have lost one generation to bullets and we may lose another generation to drugs”.

Harms of drug consumption don’t just limit to the mind altering effects; it has various other implications which may pose serious risk to one’s life. The various modes of drug consumption have their own ill effects like people who inhale drugs are at an increased risk of mild conditions like epistaxis to severe complications like heart dyscrasias. Some people fathom injecting drugs with a prejudice that doing so would give them an enhanced high` are at increased risk for diseases like hepatitis C and HIV due to possible needle contamination. Contracting any of these diseases has the potency to severely alter one’s life and take away from them any shot they might have towards building a meaningful life.

It’s thus high time that the mental health of the future of Kashmir is given its due attention, not just to save them but the entire future of the Kashmir and the future of the world altogether. Doing so requires persuasive steps not just towards spreading awareness regarding the ill-effects of substance abuse but also simultaneously focusing on detoxification and rehabilitation of addicted population. This requires setting up mental health centres which are easily accessible and equipped with professionals who can provide apt guidance to the seekers.

Fore mostly, it’s important to destigmatize seeking professional help as this concept is vastly swallowed by the prevailing stigmas in the society and the taboos surrounding it has to be busted so that everyone can come ahead and avail these services. People visit doctors & physiotherapy centres to relive themselves of physical pain, it is important to motivate them to visit therapists, psychiatrists and counselling centres to relive their mental agony as well. Introduction of mental wellness as a part of schooling in the forms of short sessions and deployment of full-time counsellors in schools is definitely going to play a major role in our efforts towards a better future.

This grim picture of drug abuse in the Kashmir valley has put a lot of challenges for the people of the valley in general and for Government agencies, Non-Governmental Organisations in particular. The biggest challenge that the governing organizations face is the illegal trafficking and sale of drugs within the valley in which police and general public have an important role to play. With full public support and cooperation, Police can work more efficiently towards curbing this menace which is engulfing the youth at a devastating rate.

The other challenge is the limited facilities available for rehabilitation of drug addicts. More drug de addiction centres are needed to rehabilitate the victims. Spreading awareness is thus the key and should be taken up at small as well as large levels to sensitize the maximum number of people possible. Government Agencies, Educational institutes, NGO’s and other social work institutes need to educate people especially young generation about this problem. The awareness on the part of Parents and caretakers is also an issue to tackle so that they can detect this problem as early as possible and they can provide immediate help to the person.

They also need to be educated about the correct way to approach the child in case he/she is addicted to a certain substance. It’s important to understand that enhancing an addict’s social support and inculcating in him/her positive behavioural changes at a steady pace can help them get rid of this menace. Remember that drug addicts often feel isolated and are encapsulated with a sense of alienation, so providing them with a kind atmosphere along with social and moral support helps them and makes them more empowered to get over this problem.

Author, besides being a Dentist, works on various social issues especially related to youth. [email protected]

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