Soaring drug addiction among Kashmiri youth has crossed the one million-mark, according to a study conducted in December 2022 by the Government Medical College, Srinagar, Department of Mental Health and Neurosciences in collaboration with the Health Services Department and financed by the Social Welfare Department. The Report reveals that Kashmir has surpassed Punjab in drug abuse cases and is currently at the number two position with Northeast in India topping the drug abuse list. Punjab has 1.2 per cent population using drugs and Kashmir has 2.5 per cent. About 33,000 syringes are used by drug abusers in the Valley every day. Most abusers are in the age group of 17-33 years, unemployed and on an average, it is estimated that a single drug abuser spends Rs.88,183 every month to defray the expenditure on various kinds of drugs.
The situation is so dire that the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir has directed all the 10 Deputy Commissioners to classify villages in their districts on the basis of colour labels. Label colours will be in green, yellow and red, depending upon the severity of drug abuse detected and reported. Drugs being used by both males and females are Heroin, Cocaine, Amphetamine Type Stimulants and Hallucinogens. The most common substances of abuse identified included nicotine (94.4%), medicinal opioids (65.7%), cannabis (63.6%), benzodiazepines (45.5%), other prescription medications (43.4%), alcohol (32.5%), inhalants (11.1%), and cocaine (7.5%). The study further exposed that poly-substance abuse was found in 91.9% of the studied patients. Inhalant use was seen predominantly among adolescents (54.5%) whereas nicotine (50.2%), cannabis (49.2%), alcohol (51.1%), opioids (58.4%), and benzodiazepines (53.48%) were more predominant in the age group of 21 to 30 years. Several studies conducted in the recent past have shown an alarming shift in the pattern of substance abuse in terms of a rise in the number of female users and decreasing age at first use. The start age has fallen to as low as 09-10 years. While earlier the number of opium users was more than that of heroin users, however, in the last few years, the trend has changed. Number of heroin users escalated to almost three times. There has been a 340 per cent increase in the number of patients seeking treatment for Intravenous (IV) Heroin abuse. If India as a whole is taken into consideration, opioid use is three times higher than that of the global average.
Cross-border drug smuggling has become a major challenge for the government as drugs from Pakistan is flowing into the State incessantly by land and by drones. Sponsoring terrorism is an expensive affair and money for killing, kidnapping and sabotage does not come through proper channels. It comes through illegal and unofficial channels. The market value of narcotic drugs is much higher than any consumer products in the world. It fetches voluminous amounts of money and that too in hard cash, hence intelligence agencies like Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) prefer dealing with drugs, as there cannot be any money trail. It is because of the enormous money involved in the illicit drug trade that terrorists have established links with intelligence agencies, drug traffickers, smugglers, and underworld dons to meet the mounting and exorbitant expenses for conducting terrorism. Kashmir and Punjab are bearing the brunt of narcotics smuggling using drones, by Pakistani traffickers in collaboration with ISI.
As many as 256 drone sightings were reported by BSF in Punjab, in Amritsar, Gurdaspur, and Ferozepur in 2022. Drones are being used by Pakistan to smuggle weapons, explosives and narcotics across the border into Kashmir. The security forces have been continuously seizing various AK series assault rifles, pistols, MP4 carbines, carbine magazines and high explosive grenades as well as large quantities of Afghan Heroin, which were sought to be dumped into Kashmir.
The State is facing an acute health crisis for which it needs many rehabilitation centers, psychiatrists, drug-counsellors, nurses and day-care facilities. The heavy expenditure to be incurred by the parents for rehabilitation is going to be an additional burden for innumerable families. Many pathetic stories are emerging from Kashmir of even drug addicted children killing their parents. In a third stone-cold murder in less than six months, a drug addict son allegedly killed his mother in Sopore area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, in March 2023. Desperate for money to buy drugs, the addicts are unmindful of whom they are attacking and killing. There are two ways in which Heroin abuse is related to senseless violence. First, violence can be and is perpetrated under the influence of heroin, and second, violence related to heroin abuse stems from the trade in drugs, which is all too often focused on poor and underserved sections of society. The elimination of the market for drugs, which is a phenomenal task, thereby causing a reduction in the demand for drugs, will in turn bring about a reduction in heroin abuse-related violence. For this, there is a need to strengthen the number of student drug- counsellors in every village, and enforce a strict norm that every school and college should have specialized drug-counsellors. It is a great challenge for the Kashmir administration.
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