Together We Fight The Monster…

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SHEIKH ABID

Drug abuse is a silent monster which is increasingly threatening to eat into our future generation and deviate it towards darkness, despair and destruction. While the administration, the police, educational institutes, social organisations and many individuals work tirelessly at killing the menace, we, at KC, pick the issue yet again as our bit towards the effort.

JAMMU and Kashmir, particularly Kashmir has been witnessing the deadliest storm of drug-addiction, especially among the school & college going population.

We, at KC, feel strongly about this issue and so, as a part of our consistent effort to flag it, keep picking it in different ways lest it should be brushed aside.

Drug addiction, as we know, is defined as an out of control use of drugs despite their negative effects. A rapidly growing inclination towards substance abuse is a global phenomenon. Clearly because it comes with massive monetary gains for those who have made a business out of it. After petroleum and arms, the drug trade is the third largest business in the world. And thus, it also has a massive capacity to destroy too. It is estimated in a report of the United Nations (2017) that about 25.5 million people in the world are suffering from drug use disorders.

  • Drugs take over the Valley

Similarly, in the recent years, Jammu and Kashmir has seen an exponential increase in drug abuse. According to official data shared by the central government in the Parliament, the number of people affected by drug abuse in J&K has reached nearly 10 lakh, which is around 8% of the total population of Jammu and Kashmir. On August 4, 2023 the standing committee on Social Justice and Empowerment has conveyed to the Parliament of India that approximately 13.50 lakh drug users are estimated to be in J&K, with the majority falling within the age range of 18 to 75 years.

The breakdown provided by the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment shows that an estimated 1.44 lakh people are consuming cannabis in J&K, 36,000 among them being females. Opioid addiction is prevalent among 5.34 lakh men and 8,000 women, sedative addiction among 1.6 lakh men and 8,000 women, states the government data.

A recent study by the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS), Srinagar, has revealed that J&K has surpassed Punjab in drug abuse cases. The figures shared by the Centre are from the health ministry’s national survey on substance use disorders conducted in 2018 across India, which included the erstwhile state of J&K.

  • Fighting the menace

In 2018, the government came up with a drug de-addiction policy, focussed on prevention, awareness and accessibility to the treatment. It calls for an immediate end to the isolation of patients which according to experts will help de-stigmatise the treatment of the disease.

Director of the Drug De-addiction Centre, Srinagar, Dr. Muzaffar Khan has been quoted saying that the trend of serious drug-addiction among school and college going students is rampant with ever-increasing cases being reported on daily basis.

Dr. Khan is at the forefront of advocating introduction of a drug policy in all schools and colleges in Kashmir. “The screening tests will act as a deterrent among students. This may also help bring the society out of denial,” he adds.

  • The destructive graph

Crucially, the very future of Kashmir could be destroyed by drug-addiction. It’s no news that it’s the youth that play the most vital role in the development of a society and are the economically most productive and biologically most reproductive part of a society. A report of the Government Psychiatric Hospital of Kashmir reveals that most drug addicts in the Valley are the youth. The rate of increase of drug addiction is so high here that experts and academicians are warning that the generation may be lost to drugs.

Dr. Waseem Kakroo, one of the Valley’s prominent clinical psychologists known to be rather vocal against the menace, dives into the evident as well as underlying aspects of drug abuse particularly among the school/college going teenagers. He digs deeper into its multi-dimensional aspects under cause and effect. He broadly categorises the issue under various compartments so as to offer a lucid understanding:

  1. Biological reasons

Teenaged boys and girls with a childhood history of some mental or psychological issue or abuse are more likely to get trapped in drug abuse later in their lives. For example, a kid with childhood ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder, if left untreated early, is likely to fall prey to use of contraband substance when he/she enters adolescence.

  1. Psychological aspects

Various other psychological reasons, including introvert/extrovert nature of a boy/girl, his/her personality, way of thinking & approach towards various challenges in life also determines if he/she will fall into the trap.

  1. Effective parenting & peer group influences

This is one of the most important aspects of possible association with substance abuse. What kind of parenting has one experienced and to what level does one involve with his/her peer group on a regular basis determines the probability of one’s association with addiction. Parents should ideally monitor their kids’ behaviour closely and also his/her association/interaction with his/her peer group. This can play a huge role in preventing his or her falling into the hands of drug peddlers.

  1. Social responsibility

Our responsibility as a society is to first and foremost, wake up and acknowledge the gravity of the situation. This can be done in consonance with the collaborative efforts of the civil society, elders, religious heads along with administrative heads and law enforcement agencies, particularly the police.

  • And we fight on…

It is a crucial need of the hour that the pace of drug addiction be arrested. In order to curb this problem, the first and foremost step which the government of Jammu and Kashmir has already initiated is strict action against drug peddlers, opioid cultivators, and chemist shops that sell psychotropic medicines. Another important responsibility is of parents and teachers together. We must make both homes and schools our one-stop de facto drug de-addiction-cum-counselling centres.

For example, preventive screening of youth is proving to be a key in creating deterrence. The J&K Police Public School (JKPPS), Bemina, in Srinagar has become the first school in the Valley to implement a drug policy, which puts a thrust on random screening of students annually. Other schools/colleges can take note of this and replicate the idea. Similarly, at the administrative level, we could relook at our policies regarding the eradication of this frightening mess. Our modus operandi could be more pro-active and preventive rather than reactive.

It is only after collaborative efforts that we would be able to put an end to this ever-rising monster which, if not identified and contained early, has the power to eat up our future generation and deviate it towards destruction and darkness.

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