Javid Amin, Journalist based in Kashmir (J&K). Printer, Publisher, Editor of "Weekly Shohrat - Kashmir" (Print Edition) as well owner of online news portals www.KashmirPost.org / www.KashmirInFocus.com. Aimed at putting Kashmir and its issues on the global platform. An extensively traveled person enjoys writing.

As Jammu and Kashmir government has made the draft drug de-addiction policy public, the document has revealed that drug addiction is widespread, fast-rising and is quickly taking the form of an epidemic in the restive State.

The studies conducted in recent years have shown an alarming shift in the pattern of substance use in terms of rise in the number of female users and decreasing age at first-use. The draft policy has laid down broad guidelines including classroom programmes delivered by teachers or peer leaders focusing on life and social skills and introducing drug-resistance skills to address the problem.

The scientific data based on community surveys on drug-related problems in Jammu and Kashmir show that deaths have started occurring directly due to overdosages, convulsions, and cardiac arrests and indirectly due to road traffic accidents. The draft policy has asked for involving faith-based organizations to address the issue.

“Religious beliefs are important protective factors. Involve religious and spiritual leaders by highlighting that promotion of substance use prevention activities is already in line with their preachings,” the draft policy says.

A recent study conducted by Srinagar based Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (IMHANS) in a Drug De-addiction centre in Srinagar, found that over two-third of patients in the study had started substance abuse in the age group of 11-20 years. 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 revealed 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.

In contrast, a study conducted by well-known psychiatrist of the State, Dr. Mushtaq Margoob, published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in 1993, reported that 9726 cases of substance-related disorders were reported to IMHANS in a period of eight years starting from January 1980. “We have been consistently seeing more than 6000 patients of substance-related disorders per year since 2015 at IMHANS,” the document shows pointing towards the grim situation.

The draft policy has called for stringent laws against the “rampant misuse of prescription medications and reckless sale of medication with psychoactive properties at medical shops.”

“Drug de-addiction centers should be integrated with the main hospitals to facilitate de-stigmatization of treatment process that occurs when centres are established in isolation.”

“From our past experiences with the process of treatment and our efforts towards eradication of previously stigmatized diseases like Tuberculosis and Leprosy, we have learnt the lesson that isolation leads to increased stigmatization and feelings of shame and exclusion, which impedes case finding and makes treatment difficult, let alone eradicating the disease. Therefore, we strongly recommend that the de-addiction centres be integrated with the hospitals not only functionally but also geographically.”

It has also asked for enforcement of prohibition on cultivation of illicit crops like poppy and insisted on providing education to farmers on alternate crops in liaison with experts from departments of agriculture and horticulture. 

In July this year Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, had said one new source of drugs in Punjab is Kashmir despite so much security.