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BEYOND NUMBERS | J&K’s silent crisis: Over 14 lakh ensnared in grip of substance abuse

02:01 AM Dec 29, 2023 IST | MUKEET AKMALI
beyond numbers   j k’s silent crisis  over 14 lakh ensnared in grip of substance abuse
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Srinagar, Dec 28: In a deeply troubling revelation, Jammu and Kashmir is grappling with a severe drug addiction crisis and as per the recent government data approximately 14 lakh individuals are ensnared by substance abuse, posing a significant threat to public health and societal well-being.

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National Conference (NC) Member of Parliament Hasnain Masoodi raised the concern during the Parliament session, inquiring whether there were nearly 10 lakh drug addicts in J&K.

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In response, the Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, in a written reply to the Lok Sabha, cited the data from the national survey on the extent and pattern of substance use in India conducted by the Ministry in 2018.

The findings revealed a staggering estimate of over 14.09 lakh people, aged between 10 and 75, using various psychoactive substances in J&K.

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According to the data provided by the Union Minister, the substance abusers in J&K encompass a wide spectrum, ranging from cannabis to sedatives to inhalants.

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The breakdown includes approximately 5.4 lakh individuals abusing opioids, 4.20 lakh using alcohol, 1.4 lakh consuming cannabis, 1.35 lakh inhaling substances.

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A notable shift has been observed in the drug landscape, with opium and its derivatives now dominating over 90 percent of substance abuse cases.

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Researchers from the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS), Kashmir, conducted a study on the changing pattern of opioid users attending an Opioid Agonist Treatment Clinic in North India.

The study estimated that nearly three out of every 100 adults in Kashmir are dependent on contraband substances, primarily opium and its derivatives.

The multidimensional factors contributing to the drug menace in the region include unemployment, the lingering impact of conflict, peer pressure, unfulfilled aspirations, parental expectations, poverty, and corruption.

Research findings also shed light on the prevalent drugs of abuse in J&K, which include tobacco, cannabis, alcohol, benzodiazepines, opiates, brown sugar, and various inhalants.

The situation has reached alarming proportions, especially with a sharp rise in the consumption of hard drugs like heroin and other opioids.

A survey conducted in the southern landscape of Kashmir on drug awareness revealed a startling lack of awareness among respondents.

Nearly 94.17 percent of participants were unaware of the interventions provided by drug de-addiction centers, and only 3.4 percent were aware of NGOs working in the field.

A meager 5.4 percent of respondents were knowledgeable about the drug de-addiction centres operating in Kashmir.

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