Drug abuse among women is often ignored and stigmatized. This is the reason they are not able to access treatment in time.
The stories of drug addiction are usually associated with men. But there are other stories too of drug addiction, which always remain in wraps. These pertain to drug abuse by women. These are equally alarming, and need to be addressed urgently.
Data on the number of women addicts is not available — or on the number of de-addiction centers for women.
There are multiple reasons for this. While families experience shame in reporting drug abuse by men, the degree of shame is far higher if a woman is involved in it. Hence people are hesitant to seek treatment if a female family member is involved in drug abuse
Second, families are also less likely to invest money in a woman in order to wean her away from drugs. Both these inhibiting actors are due to the lower
position of women users in the drug milieu.
While the number of women drug abusers is less as compared to men, they suffer worse consequences both on the social front, and also in terms of health.
According to a report published by United Nation Drug Control Program (UNDCP), there are around 70,000 drug addicts in the Kashmir division, among
whom approximately 31 percent are women. The number is not as big as
men’s, but it is increasing at a slow pace over the last few years.
Drug Abuse Impacts Women More Severely
Kashmiri women, like women of other societies, are in a stage of transmutation. Changing lifestyles, changing roles and increased stress bring with them newer problems. Along with these new challenges has come the problem of drug abuse. Women have not been left untouched by the narco terrorism pushed by Pakistan. The deeper tragedy is that drug abuse is far more ravaging for a woman’s body than for a man’s body.
The impact of substance abuse on women is more severe than on men. For example, they may have stronger and more frequent drug cravings. They may be
more likely to relapse after treatment. Their relationships may suffer more. Women drug abusers may find that they have far less support of family members than the men. They may have fewer financial sources which shall deplete soon, and higher health costs.
Women drug abusers are also more prone to liver and heart disease, hypertension, brain damage and more damaging psychiatric consequences than men. They are at risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
Why Women Fall Prey To Drugs
The reasons for falling prey to drug abuse are varied. While a higher number of men may take to drug abuse out of curiosity, this incidence is lower among women.
In most cases, the trigger may be psychiatric, like depression. The men in a woman’s life may influence her to take this step. It may be the husband, the boyfriend or her male companion. It is usually observed that the woman may start with light drugs, then move to heroin and intravenous drugs. Such drug abuse is highly dangerous and at times fatal.
A doctor at the Drug Rehabilitation Center told KASHMIR CENTRAL, “We have seen cases where the doctor had recommended some painkillers for some time like two to three weeks. But after that period, the medicine is misused. The person continues to take that medicine beyond the period of prescription and becomes addicted. In Kashmir, men and women take similar drugs. Heroin and cannabis is the most common drug used here.”
Women Drug Abuse Patients At SMHS Hospital, Srinagar
The Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College Srinagar on the premises of SMHS hospital has a drug de-addiction center. Both male and female patients seek treatment here. “Weekly, about four to five women drug abusers visit us in the OPD. They are mostly from North Kashmir or Srinagar. Women who have been active drug users or one to two years come to us for treatment. Most of them are in their late teens and early 20s. Chronic drug abuse takes longer to treat. But there are higher chances of fast recovery if the patient gets strong family and social support,” said a senior doctor from SMHS who has been treating such patients for several years. “In cannabis and heroin, there are higher chances that the patient will relapse after the treatment,” he added.
Deeper Social Stigma For Women
Not all women drug abusers seek medical assistance, due to diverse reasons. Those who seek help include the ones who are caught by their family members in drug abuse, or have become chronic drug users. In such cases, they are taken by their family members for treatment and have no option left.
The other important reason is the social stigma related to women when it comes to going to the drug rehabilitation center, especially in Srinagar. The society harshly judges women who are admitted to Rehabilitation Centers for treatment. These attitudes stigmatize women, and prevent them from seeking help.
Kashmiri society is not that open-minded yet that someone can say that my daughter, sister, mother, or daughter-in-law is in the drug rehabilitation center for treatment. What aggravates the situation further is that Kashmiris are a close-knit community. The news of a woman seeking treatment at a drug rehabilitation centre cannot remain hidden for long. The result is that not only the woman, but the whole family gets stigmatized by such a development.
Due to these factors, women drug abusers do not get treatment at the right time. We must not judge those harshly who get trapped in drug abuse. There is no point in shaming the girl and her family. A disease or an addiction needs treatment. The problem must be addressed as such.
Nexus of Drug Peddlers and Rehabilitation Centers
Shocking but true, that drug addicts are able to source the intoxicants even in the rehabilitation centers. This completely changes the meaning and motive of the center, and defeats the family which is seeking treatment for their member.
Shareefa (name changed to protect privacy), an elite woman from Bemina visited him and narrated her daughter’s story with grief. She told the officer that her daughter’s husband was a drug abuser. The man cajoled his wife to join him in drug abuse. The young woman started using drugs with him and is now a habitual user. She is now facing problems in conceiving a baby. She is also suffering from Hepatitis C because she used an infected syringe to infuse drugs.
Shareefa cried that her daughter is not been able to do anything. She is
completely dependent on drugs for her survival and gets severe withdrawal symptoms if she does not get the drugs. Shareefa requested the officer to get her daughter admitted in the rehabilitation at Kupwara and not in Srinagar. She told the officer that drug abusers easily get drugs in the rehabilitation centers, and her daughter too would be able to procure it. The woman cried that the rehabilitation centers have a nexus with the drug peddlers, and hence the drugs are supplied on demand.
The study of drug abuse among women has also revealed that a married woman gets less support from her spouse in case she falls prey to drug abuse. An unmarried woman is more likely to get support from her family in such a scenario.
Women Drug Peddlers
A doctor of SMHS told KASHMIR CENTRAL that drugs are easily available everywhere in Kashmir. “You are one click away from drugs. The situation is so bad that people even MPay through the app and get drugs delivered to them,” he said.
According to sources, there are many women drug peddlers in Kashmir because they earn a huge profit from this trade. The woman benefit from the fact that they are not suspected by the police or by the locals.
Sources reveal that most of these women drug peddlers are from Kupwara, Sopore and Baramulla in North Kashmir, and from the newly developed areas o Srinagar.
Recently a popular brand of cough syrup was recovered from a man in bulk quantity. Upon investigation, a police team raided the main supplier in Batamaloo, Srinagar. The women of the house came out, attacked the SHO and created a scene.
This reveals that the women knew about the involvement of their family members in this crime. The family was engaged in this trade with the tacit approval of the women. This indeed is a matter of concern, that in order to make money, the lives of the sons and daughters of fellow Kashmiris should be put at stake.
In the last three years, there has been a several-fold increase in drug use in Kashmir. The police must strictly check the availability of drugs in order to end this cruel epidemic which claims young, blossoming lives.