Drug addiction consumes Kashmir’s youth

A call for ‘jihad’ against drug addiction in Valley

Irfan Rashid


Despite Kashmir being historically a “low drug addiction zone,” the place appears to have “lost its innocence” in recent times. Many young boys and girls continue to fall prey to drug addiction for variety of reasons in the Kashmir valley and sadly the situation continues to be grim in relation to substance abuse, as the data from valley’s two drug de-addiction centres serves a chilling reminder. Mostly youth in the age group of 18-35 fall in the trap. Statistics to this effect are alarming.
At least 127 patients, including a 15-year old girl, were admitted as inpatients in the department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Srinagar, while the data from March 2014 until March 2015 reveals that 193 patients were treated in Outpatient department that included two girls. Besides, 111 patients have been given OST treatment.
The post-flood results at Drug De-addiction Centre at Police Control Room (PCR), Srinagar is equally disturbing. The total number of cases registered for inpatient is 138, out of which 67 have been discharged. Presently, 11 patients are admitted here while 60 others are on the waiting list. According to the data from last four months, 265 more are registered with Outpatient department.
A study by a leading psychiatrist had earlier revealed that more than 200,000 people in the Kashmir valley alone were on opiates while 5623 persons, under the National Mental Health programme, treated for substance abuse in 2012.
Stressing on the need to be pro-active to fight drug abuse, valley’s leading psychiatrist Dr. Arshad Hussain told Rising Kashmir that everyone has a role to play.
“All of us have a role in defeating substance abuse. The pharmacists have become sensitive to the issue and together with some effective steps taken by Drug Controller there is already a decline in use of medicinal opiates and benzodiazepines from our regular pharmacies, but the drug users have started exploiting non-distribution channels where our police have to be vigilant. Schools and teachers ought to be pro-active, we are increasingly seeing kids brought to us for substance related problems, they usually become victim in schools,” he said.
Echoing Dr Arshad’s views, Dr Muzzafar Khan, Director Drug De-addiction Centre at Police Control Room in Srinagar adds that “addicts lose control of their minds under the influence of drugs.”
About the role of the police in controlling drug menace, the IGP Kashmir, SJM Gillani, said that his department was trying its best.
 “We are trying our best as our PCR is already working and we have set up district level centres at Anantnag and Baramulla.”
Asked about how drugs are available so easily, he answered: “I think there is a gap somewhere.”
Talking to ‘Rising Kashmir’, Kashmir’s head priest Mirwaiz Molvi Umar Farooq appealed to Kashmir’s youth to refrain from such practices.
“It is a co-incidence that this day falls in Ramadhan, this holy month encourages us to do away with the shortcomings prevalent in our society. The drug abuse is one of our biggest challenges facing our youth. Sadly, the addiction here has affected thousands,” he said.
Case Study:
He did not want to be named. So we call him Raqib. For him it is the first day of treatment at Srinagar’s Drug-de addiction centre. Sitting in front of a head medical counselor, preferring his right foot over the left, as if scratching, his whole body trembling in fear, and enters his father after seeking permission from the director to stay with his son in this delicate moment. But, as a general rule, one can’t stay there for long.
Raqib, 16, small bony-faced, beard still in their roots, burning scar above right eyebrow and hoarse voiced, is the latest victim of growing drug addiction menace. Till last night, no one knew this side of Raqib, the addict, though symptoms and suspicion always existed.
At times he would be aggressive with his father, but the family considered his odd behaviour as normal teenage temperament, when children do enter into verbal brawls with parents.
Raqib’s father is an influential businessman who could easily earn nearly Rs 1 lakh a day under normal circumstances. But because of his son’s problem of substance abuse he was forced to shut down his business for hours.
As any normal father would do in such circumstances, Raqib’s dad too would accompany him to school instead of leaving him alone in the school bus, fearing he may bunk his classes.
Though his father knew Raqib as a part-timer smoker but had not in his wildest of his imaginations thought of his son falling prey to drug abuse. Police, however, suspects Raqib to be even involved in drug smuggling.
The first week of Ramdhan cleared the blurred image. Raqib’s father got to know the bitter reality: his son is a drug addict.
As Raqib breaks fast at Iftaar and prepares to go to the mosque for offering late evening prayers, Taraweeh.
 “Mummy, I’ll be back after Taraweeh from another colony’s Masjid, so I’ll be a little late but please don’t worry,” Raqib’s father quotes his son having said so.
Eventually, Raqib returned at 11 in the night. He silently entered his room.
Waking up in the middle of night, his father hears some chatter going on in Raqib’s room.
“I was shocked to see an unknown boy with my son in the midst of the night and more shocking was the fact that dozens of small packets containing cannabis lying scattered in the room,” he says.
When Raqib’s father tried to enquire why his son had lied he was up for another shocker: “I am a Kaafir (infidel)…Papa, go to hell…don’t rebuke my friend…don’t talk to me.”
They smoke it, sniff it, eat it, and temporarily escape into a deceptive world.
The big boy with whom Raqib was found in his room happens to be son of a renowned doctor from Kashmir. Instead of making sure his son gets properly treated he has abandoned him.
These two guys would take drugs merely to sound cool and to make a style statement among their peers.
Finally, the police caught hold of Raqib, after his own father after exhausting all options called up the police.
Because of Raqib’s age he was not sent to prison. He received treatment at Drug de-addiction centre.
Police initially wanted to admit Raqib to Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital in Srinagar for a month.
As Dr Arshad points out that “we are debating whether drug addiction is a social problem, a legal problem or a medical issue. Substance abuse is eating on the very social fabric. We are bound to witness rising crime rates.”
In Dr Muzzafar’s opinion victims like Raqib are vulnerable to heinous crimes.
“When such boys have no money they can be easily motivated to throw bombs against paltry amounts. The menace of drug addiction has gripped the city, mostly youngsters are falling into the trap.” he concludes.
Treatment of substance user is done in four steps. Motivation where counselor, religious leaders and family has a role; followed by de-toxification process wherein de-addiction centres play their role; followed by maintenance wherein community, health system and society has a role followed by rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is absolutely missing. No one is working for their rehabilitation.

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