Rashid Paul

Kashmir Surpasses Punjab in opiate Users

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International agencies can be roped in to tackle the menace

Kashmir has taken lead over Punjab in opiate users. This is a revelation which has hardly surprised many of us. The exposure on opiate numbers was made in a study by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS). But, alas, treatment and specialist interventions are in short supply for this alarming disease in Kashmir, says United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

According to the AIMS study Punjab has 1.2 percent of opiate users while as the percentage of people using opiates to relieve pain and induce relaxation is 2.5 percent in Kashmir. Another report by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of the AIMS pointing to the high-speed danger says that 600,000 people in Jammu & Kashmir are consuming drugs. This means that five out of every 100 people in the region are addicted to drugs.

Drug addiction is considered as a neurobiological disease. The socio politico and economic reasons prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir for the past so many decades have led to this alarming mental health disorder. It is a globally accepted reality that societies living in conflict regions tend to have prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorders.

Living continuously under the shadow of the violence, Kashmir has bled profusely both in terms of physical and emotional domains. A report in the International Journal of Health Sciences authored by two Kashmiri medical researchers, Dr Syed Amin and Dr A W Khan, discloses that depression follows particular classes of experience in conflict regions and that in Kashmir it has led to disruption, losses and experiences of humiliation and entrapment.

The report titled ‘Life in conflict: Characteristics of Depression in Kashmir’ says the security concerns are amongst the dominant themes in the minds of people living in Kashmir. This owes to the fact that death, injury and destruction of assets is the notable feature of life in the Valley.

Many in Kashmir have suffered tragic incidents of a war-like situation which by their nature are beyond the endurance of common man. Many are witness to bloodshed that is characteristic of such situation. Thousands of lives have been lost, thousands of children have been rendered orphans many others have been tortured and displaced. There have been scores of instances of enforced disappearance the report read. But those who survive in this daily mayhem continue to be reminded of their vulnerability.

The major themes in this situation are economic disruption, unemployment, poverty and uncertainty of career. A viscous circle has been created where the players only think in dominating the non combatant population and creating tailored narratives. It is natural to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorders among the civilian population, especially the youth, who continuously live in an atmosphere of fear and dread.

The prevalence of depression in Kashmir according to Amin and Khan’s study is 63 percent to 67 percent in the age group of 15 to 35 and is much higher in rural areas.

Feeling trapped in a milieu of socio, psychological uncertainty and angst they crave for the least momentary exhilaration and take to substance abuse but quietly  slip into the foggy alleys of drug addiction. But even in this dark maze their struggle for survival keeps on. This is substantiated by the numbers the youth registered themselves at the Valleys major but modestly developed drug addiction center at the Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences Srinagar.  Nearly 7500 persons, mostly youth, registered at the center in 2019 which went up to 13,500 in 2021.

But absence of treatment and specialist intervention is in short supply as reported by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Keeping in mind the geographical position of Kashmir and its contiguity with the golden triangle, drug menace shall have serious after effects on the Indian mainland. The menace can be at least managed by forging multilateral partnerships including with UN involvement.

So many World Bank aided infrastructure development projects have been executed in Kashmir over the years. With support from international agencies world class drug de addiction centers can be established here with well qualified multi-disciplinary medical doctors, pre-clinical scientists, social scientists, nursing and laboratory personnel. The centers can be established on the state land the current administration is reclaiming from “illegal” local inhabitants of Kashmir.

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