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DRUG DE-ADDICTION POLICY: ‘A comprehensive action plan for addressing drug menace in J&K’

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SRINAGAR: Drug Addiction has assumed the magnitude of a silent epidemic in J&K and despite its high prevalence, the awareness about the problem is low.

Jammu and Kashmir lies in the vicinity of the “Golden Crescent”, a name given to South Asia’s opium producing countries Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan which produces 80 percent of the world’s opium and is considered as the prime source of illicit drug trade. Under such a scenario, it becomes more imperative to curb the menace of drug abuse in J&K.

In order to combat this rising societal problem, the Jammu and Kashmir government has released its maiden drug de-addiction policy so that stakeholder departments and the masses are involved in the efforts meant for combating the menace of substance abuse here.

J&K is the first UT in the country only after Punjab state, which has a drug de-addiction policy of its own. Substance abuse required a multi-pronged strategy and the policy incorporates social, medical and legal aspects to address the issue better. The policy while stressing the need to have standards of care in drug de-addiction centers and remove the taboo surrounding the problem also inculcates setting up of drug de-addiction centers with proper guidelines and standards of care. These centers are being set up in all district hospitals under a centrally-sponsored scheme to improve the access of facilities for those seeking help for substance abuse. The government has also launched Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) to help the affected come out of opium addiction, a life-threatening menace.

Substance abuse is responsible for an increase in crimes, increase in moral degradation and lower participation of the youth in economic activities. If it is not addressed properly it can lead to annihilation of our young generation. The menace of drug-addiction is spreading widely and quickly taking the form of an epidemic and places where a bus cannot go, the deadly drugs reach.

To tackle this social evil in J&K, the Government has come out with a detailed mechanism to supervise and review implementation of Drug De-addiction Policy and has even roped in civil society members so that drug menace is fought effectively. Under this mechanism, UT Level Policy Implementation Monitoring Committee and Jammu and Kashmir Division Level De-addiction Centre Monitoring Committees have been constituted. The UT Level Committee has assigned the task of suggesting changes in the Drug De-addiction Policy from time to time as may be deemed necessary and try to look for financial support for various de-addiction activities in Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly, the Divisional Level Committees have been assigned the task of inspecting the existing de-addiction facilities in Jammu and Kashmir and grant or cancel licenses after thorough inspection of infrastructure, manpower and standards of care. These committees are also supposed to advise various stakeholders from time to time for implementation of Drug De-addiction Policy on ground and look at monitoring of prescription drug abuse and suggest remedial measures to the Drug Controller.

The Policy focuses on various key aspects including prevention, rehabilitation and integration, training and sensitization, community participation, generating awareness, upgradation/establishment of drug de-addiction centers. It lays out a comprehensive action plan for addressing the drug addiction issue in its entirety. Pertinent to mention here is that there has been a steep rise in physical, mental and substance-use disorders over the past two decades across the UT. There has been an alarming shift in the pattern of substance use in terms of rise in the number of female users, decreasing age at first-use, increasing use of solvents, injectable-opiates and use of steroids as well as increasing drug related deaths (over- dose and accidents).

More so, for effective surveillance and law enforcement, the government has also formed the Anti-Narcotics Tasks Force (ANTF) in coordination with the Excise and Agriculture departments to map the expected cultivation areas and take remedial actions in terms of destruction of the illegal crops on both private and government lands. The ANTF has further been asked to formulate an action plan to prevent such cultivation in the next season. The ANTF will also undertake extensive awareness generation drives to inform the public on the associated risks and issues, and accordingly plan a calendar of activities. The Task Force will institutionalize the mechanism for promoting wide ranged reporting on illegal cultivation, transportation, trade and consumption of drugs and their synthetic derivatives; through NGOs, PRIs and Volunteers.

In summary, the implications of policy decisions need to be considered explicitly not only to prevent harm but to promote health. It can be said that major improvements in health can only be addressed by broad-based impacts that benefit both high-risk groups and the general public. In this aspect, the UT of Jammu and Kashmir has taken a lead by addressing this serious societal issue on a large scale. (Report by DIPR-JK)

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