SRINAGAR: Kashmir is battling with drug menace, as thousands of youth and others in the age-group of 45-55 years, while some even in their 60s are addicted to drugs.As per latest reports, drug addiction cases have increased by 1,000 per cent in last 3 years from 2019 to 2021 and there is just a hospital or drug de-addiction Centre in entire valley for rehabilitation of victims of the menace. A number of people from different walks of life, politicians, bureaucrats, police, senior citizens, religious people and volunteers acknowledge the fact that young generation are fighting against drug-menace for leading a good and healthy lifestyle, but many fell prey to the menace. They said that it is very unfortunate that supporters of the menace are our own locals, so how can we blame outsiders. There are numerous cases, where one can’t find out that a person is indulged in drug menace as not even a single sign of addiction is present in their behaviour, but deep scars on their arms show their long-term relationship with drugs or heroin.
Recently a shocking incident came to fore, when an elderly man from north Kashmir district, while sitting in OPD of Drug De-Addiction Center at SMHS Hospital, said that he got very upset because his sons, two in their 40s, and one who is yet to enter teenage, have fallen prey to drug menace.The on-duty doctor and others first thought that the child was just accompanying his father but got shocked on seeing injection marks on his arm and were told by the old man that apart from his other sons, this child too is addicted to drugs. The boy, who is presently 10-12 years old, is under treatment at his home under strict supervision of experts. During medical treatment, doctors found that the boy has been infected with Hepatitis-C, a common infection among drug abusers and if left untreated, can lead to liver cirrhosis and prove to be fatal.With support of Department of Gastroenterology at GMC Srinagar, the boy is now being treated for the serious disease as well. Kashmir doctors, police & politicians all agree that the drug problem has grown to monstrous proportions, but there’s no cogent plan yet to defeat it. “The most unsettling facet of drug addiction in Kashmir is that most of addicts are young while 80 percent among them have been tested positive for Hepatitis-C and some for Hepatitis-B,” a doctor said.The doctors attribute the rise in such infections to sharing and reuse of needles and syringes to inject heroin. A gram of heroin in Kashmir costs between Rs 3,000 and Rs 12,000, depending on the market and the circumstances. As per a study conducted in two of the most populous districts of Kashmir – Srinagar and Anantnag, 71 percent of addicts share a needle/syringe while 69 percent of them re-use them. The survey was conducted in 2020, under the guidance of professionals of Govt Medical College Srinagar.The increasing number of drug addicts is also a cause of concern. In 2016, the number of people who sought treatment for heroin addiction was 489, in 2017 number rose to 3,622, then to 5,113 in 2019 while it was more than 7,400 in 2020. “Around three to four years ago, I started with sniffing heroin, also called ‘chasing’. During that time, I also took brown sugar and cannabis. But with every passing day, I wanted something stronger, and within six months, I was directly injecting heroin into my blood,” a young man, in his 30s, told STATE TIMES.On condition of anonymity, a number of young boys revealed that they had spent lakhs on their addictions, while some of their friends had sold many expensive items of their houses just to buy drugs. “It was only after death of their friends, probably due to drug overdose, after they decided to seek help,” they added.The picture is as grim and crisis has deepened so much that Jammu and Kashmir Police has decided to set up a separate helpline to address cases of drug abuse. However, a senior police officer said that heroin has to be stopped at its source to make such measures more effective. “There are no labs to manufacture heroin here. It comes from foreign countries and smuggled to Kashmir through drug peddlers. They have a network spread from the LoC to Valley, and it is spreading across India too,” the officer added. The police too has its own de-addiction centre, and senior officials informed that several others will be opened across the Valley.Pertinently, the seizures have increased and number of cases, registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act 1985, for peddling and smuggling of banned substances are rising. Recent seizure cases and booking dealers under Public Safety Act (PSA) especially in Awantipora area is testimony to the fact that police has taken a stand to curb the menace.It has been observed that the valley witnessed a steep rise in substance abusers over past decade. A report revealed that in 2016 the heroine abuse was just 15 per cent but now it has gone up to 90 per cent.As per data issued by Jammu and Kashmir Police, more than 2,000 persons involved in drug smuggling and peddling were arrested, while around 50 drug peddlers were booked under Public Safety Act (PSA). The question arises why only 50 or more drug peddlers were booked under PSA. It would have served as a deterrent if rest of 1,900 arrested persons involved in drug peddling would have also been booked under PSA.Around 2.6 crore people in India use opioids and approximately 1.18 crore people use sedatives and inhalants and over 8.5 lakh people inject drugs into their blood.
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