Updated: July 7, 2019 5:31:18 am
Doctors in Kashmir have raised an alarm after the number of drug users in the Valley has significantly increased over the past two years. Aggravating the situation is the quickly changing pattern of drug consumption in the Valley, with doctors coming across an increasing number of abusers using synthetic drugs like heroin.
“We have never seen such a situation. The number of drugs addicts has doubled. The disturbing trend is that at present, we have 11 patients admitted, and nine of them are heroin addicts. It is very alarming and something needs to be done to tackle this problem,” Dr Yasir Hassan Rather, who heads the drug de-addiction centre in Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, told The Sunday Express.
According to official data, the de-addiction centre has witnessed an unprecedented increase in the number of patients visiting the hospital’s Out Patients Department (OPD) since 2016. In 2016, the hospital saw 489 patients, which increased to 3,622 in 2017 and then 5,113 in 2018. As far as the Indoor Patients Department (IPD) is concerned, hospital officials say the trend is equally disturbing: in 2016, the hospital’s IPD department admitted 207 patients for drug abuse, which increased to 374 in 2017. In 2018, the number almost doubled to 624 cases.
At the SMHS’ drug de-addiction centre, addicts say there is easy availability of drugs everywhere. Doctors and staff said the trend is likely to increase if effective measures are not taken at this stage. A doctor at the centre told The Sunday Express that the “easy availability” of drugs like heroin is now sending more patients to the hospitals now. “If it is not taken care of, it will definitely finish the coming generation. Look what has happened to Punjab…,” the doctor said.
How govt plans to fight crisis
With easy availability of drugs luring more youths, the state government last year released its first drug de-addiction policy. The police has been approved, and various stakeholder organisations have prepared an annual action plan which is currently under the consideration of a state-level implementation committee headed by Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam.
The story is same at the other drug de-addiction centre in Srinagar. Dr Muzaffar Khan, who heads the drug de-addiction facility in the Batmaloo Police Control Room, says they are noticing two changes of late. “First, the number of patients is increasing and second, the nature of drug abuse has changed,” he said.
“I have registered 65 patients so far this month and last month it was 70. I would register hardly 10-20 per month around a year ago,” he said. “Last year, if I would see 10 patients, nine of them would use cannabis and medicinal opioids and one patient would be abusing heroin. Now it is the reverse…”
The issue of drug abuse has also become a concern for separatist and religious leaders in the Valley. Recently, Kashmir’s chief cleric and Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq spoke about the drug menace during his Friday sermon at Jamia Masjid in Srinagar.
Talking to The Indian Express, the Mirwaiz said, “Everyone is concerned about the sudden rise of easy availability of drugs like heroin in the market… The use of drugs like heroin by youth is very disturbing. We have started working on this and within a week or so we are calling all the religious figures to discuss this serious issue. We are starting a campaign through mosques, shrines and Imam Bada so that awareness will be created among the people how serious is the issue.we are also considering even calling of social boycott of those elements who are involved in selling drugs to youth.”
J&K Police officials attribute the rise of heroin cases in Kashmir to the shifting of smuggling routes to Jammu and Kashmir from Punjab.
“The change of (smuggling) routes from Punjab to J&K is the reason why we are seeing an increase in the availability of drugs like heroin here,” Ahfadul Mujtaba, IGP crime branch and nodal officer J&K for Narcotics Control Bureau said.
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