Kashmir witnesses alarming rise in drug abuse

Kashmir witnesses alarming rise in drug abuse

June 10, 2018

SMHS registers 82,262 drug abuse, related psychological cases in 2 years
• 6200 drug addiction cases registered at SMHS in 2016, 2017
• Among 404 patients admitted last year, 31 were female
• Heroin new favourite among drug addicts

Yawar Hussain

The drug addiction cases in Kashmir have gone up steeply in 2017 in comparison to year 2016.

As per the official data at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital, the cases of drug addiction registered from January 2017 to December 2017 were 4000 while during year 2016, the cases stood at 2200.

Also, the number of patients admitted for drug addiction at SMHS during 2017 stood at 404 while in 2016, the number was 241.
On an average, SMHS hospital receives 90 drug addiction cases in the Outdoor Patients Department (OPD) every day.
Some of the patients admitted at the hospital last year for drug de-addiction were as young as 14-years-old with average age group being 14-28 years.
Among the 404 patients admitted at SMHS for drug de-addiction last year, 31 were females.
The combined cases of drug abuse and related psychological issues also went up from more than 39,000 cases in 2016 to 43,262 in 2017 at the SMHS hospital.

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At Jammu Kashmir Police’s Drug De-addiction Centre (JKPDDC), the number of patients admitted has gone up to 331 in 2017 in comparison to the just 105 patients in 2016.
In 2017, the number of patients in OPD at the centre were 2284 with five to six patients coming in every day for drug addiction related problems.
In 2018, till April, 95 patients had been admitted in the centre while the number of patients in the OPD till April stand at 988.
Terming the situation as alarming, Director JKPDDC, Dr Muhammad Muzzafar said the number of patients going up in 2017 was a result of the number of beds being raised from 10 in 2016 to 25 in 2017.

He said there was a serious lack of drug de-addiction centres as well as a lack of policy fighting drug menace at the bureaucratic level.
He said the JKPDDC lacks facilities for admitting female patients.
“Some female members did come to the OPD and were willing to get admitted but I couldn’t admit them,” Dr Muzaffar said.
He said along with building new centres, the government needs to upgrade the existing facilities.
“We should have gender friendly facilities as well,” Dr Muzaffar said.

Interestingly, the government has come up with two new de-addiction centres at Tral and Kulgam, leaving one wondrous about the location and need in these areas.
On the need of awareness needed to curb the drug addiction menace, Dr Muzzafar said the teachers, bureaucracy, and doctors along with parents need counselling.
He said the lack of awareness among parents could be gauged by the fact that a 22-year-old son of a doctor couple had become an addict but was fudging lab tests of his urine sample after seeing videos on the internet.

“They had taken their son to many psychiatrists who had suspected substance abuse but tests were negative,” Dr Muzzafar said, “I ordered a supervised sample collection for the boy which proved that he was taking cannabis and Fevicol SR.”
He said parents were usually the last ones to know.

Dr Muzaffar said the teachers need to be sensitised because they could detect an addict at the initial level only.
“Till now only Delhi Public School Srinagar has asked us to train their teachers,” he said.
Dr Muzaffar said the Department of School Education should organise programmes in schools to train its teachers.
“Even the ASHA and Anganwadi workers should be trained,” he said.

Dr Muzaffar said the government should address the monster in the room and constitute a high-level committee to formulate a policy.
He said they earlier used to get cases of drug abuse related to medicinal opioids and cannabis but now there were frequent cases of heroin misuse.
Dr Muzaffar said the need of the hour was to cut down the supply side as the substances were easily available.

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Meanwhile, the Family Counselling Centres built by the Social Welfare department are almost defunct.
Officials in the department reveal that the centres were built just to lease out construction work to people while in reality, the centres don’t counsel anyone.
In-charge Medical Officer of the Department of Psychiatry, Dr Mir Mohsin Rasool said the number of females with drug addiction was more but under-reported because drug addiction was still considered a taboo in Kashmiri society.

“Males have started to come out but females are still not comfortable to report addiction issues,” Dr Rasool said.
He said one of the main reasons for rising drug addiction in the Valley was the easy supply of these substances which had not been curtailed.
Dr Rasool said the patients admitted at the department for drug de-addiction often point toward leading pharmacists giving away psychotropic and habit-forming medicines without a prescription.
He said persons facing stress issues due to their socio-economic conditions and peer pressure often take to drugs.
“Young people take to drugs because some of their friends are doing it and they have to take these drugs to be part of the group,” Dr Rasool said.

He said the awareness programmes in schools and colleges along with parents paying more attention toward their children would also help in reducing the number.
A top doctor at SMHS, wishing anonymity, said police authorities probably know the hot spots where from the peddlers operate.
As per the official figures of SMHS hospital, the addiction of cannabis and medicinal opioids is more prevalent in the Valley.
In some cases, the addicts have been using glue, paint thinner, and shoe polish while cannabis is predominately used because of its easy availability.

The summer capital, Srinagar tops the list with 185 drug addict patients admitted at SMHS in 2017.
Srinagar is followed by Budgam district which last year had 43 drug addict patients admitted at SMHS.
In north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, the number of patients admitted at SMHS last year stood at 40 while from Anantnag the number was 39.

The number of patients admitted at SMHS from other districts includes 24 from Pulwama; 15 from Shopian; 11 from Kulgam; seven from Ganderbal; 14 from Bandipora and 25 from Kupwara.
Doctors attribute the less number of patients coming in for treatment to the fact that despite the problem, there were only two operational de-addiction centres in Srinagar, one run by the police at Batamaloo and the other at the SMHS hospital.
The SMHS hospital de-addiction centre only has 30 beds for indoor patients.
“Effective awareness programmes at different levels is the needed to tackle the menace of drugs,” Dr Rasool said.

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As per the official documents of the Deputy Food and Drug Controller, in Kashmir division, 184 licences had been suspended since May last year while two licenses were cancelled.
As part of the special drive started by the Deputy Food and Drug Controller’s office, show cause notices were issued to 233 registered chemists and drug dealers for failing to maintain records of the drugs being sold.

The Food and Drug Controller office has conducted 1011 inspections across seven districts of the Valley in which highest number of licences (47) were suspended Anantnag.
Last year, 30 licenses of chemists and drug dealers were suspended in Baramulla; 28 in Srinagar; 27 in Pulwama; 26 in Ganderbal; 23 in Budgam and 3 in Bandipora by the food and drug controller office.
Licences of two registered drug dealers were cancelled in Srinagar and Anantnag each last year.
Interestingly, the highest number of show cause notices at 59 have been issued to drug dealers in Anantnag followed by Baramulla where the notices have gone to 57 dealers.
In other districts, the notices have been issued to 35 dealers and chemists in Srinagar; 34 in Pulwama; 25 in Ganderbal; 15 in Budgam and 8 in Bandipora.

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Deputy Food and Drug Controller, Kashmir division Dr Irfana Ahmad said earlier the chemists and drug dealers in the Valley were not sensitised in the Valley on the importance of keeping records of the sale of drugs.

“After our drives, the violations have gone down,” Dr Irfana said. “The chemists and drug dealers now have to maintain records of 341 drugs under ‘H1’ category which includes some over the counter antibiotics and anti-tubercular drugs.

She said the cases of addiction related to consumption of habit-forming and psychotropic drugs has gone down in the Valley.
“I don’t claim that everything is under control but the addiction to drugs available through chemists has come down,” Dr Irfana said.

She said doctors alleging that some of the top pharmacists in Srinagar were selling these drugs without prescription should come forth with a complaint to the Food and Frug Controller’s office.
“We have taken action and published the details. If anyone is involved selling drugs without prescription, they should come forth with a complaint,” Dr Irfana said.
She said there were allegations against doctors issuing prescriptions on small chits for habit forming and psychotropic drugs.
“People say that some doctor give these prescription on small chits while doctors have been saying that the patients on their own forge such prescriptions,” Dr Irfana said.

She said her office had also conducted a prescription audit, the details of which had been submitted to the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir’s office.
Officials in the Health department allege that the government’s move to bring in a drug policy was scuttled by a lobby of doctors.
The policy aimed at making mandatory for doctors to write generic names of medicines rather than writing a medicine of a particular pharmaceutical company.
“Who brings in these pharmaceuticals companies in the State from outside,” an official in the Health department said.

Meanwhile, as per a directive from the divisional administration, the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) has also failed to organise awareness programmes on drugs.
Dr Irfana Ahmad opines that the parents need to play a pivotal role in keeping an eye on their kids.
“Schools alone cannot do it and parents need to see how their kids are doing in every aspect,” she said.
Dr Irfana said the cases related to women being addicted to drugs were under-reported as there was an ingrained taboo associated with the words ‘drug-addiction’.

A United Nations International Drug Control Programme survey in 2008 estimated 70,000 drug addicts in Kashmir, of which 4,000 were women.