Srinagar, Feb 7: Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing a surge in drug addiction, with the past year recording a staggering influx of individuals seeking treatment.
According to statistics compiled by the J&K government, in 2023 alone, 11,476 patients visited various drug de-addiction centres across J&K seeking treatment and counselling to combat substance abuse.
The increasing number of individuals, especially youth, turning to drugs has rang alarm bells among both health officials and the people in J&K.
Experts said the easy availability of drugs, lack of awareness, peer pressure, and unemployment were some of the major factors fueling this crisis.
The Centre has revealed a staggering estimate of over 14.09 lakh people, aged between 10 and 75, using various psychoactive substances in J&K.
According to the data provided by the Centre, the substance abusers in J&K encompass a wide spectrum, ranging from cannabis to sedatives to inhalants.
The breakdown includes approximately 5.4 lakh individuals abusing opioids, 4.20 lakh using alcohol, 1.4 lakh consuming cannabis, and 1.35 lakh inhaling substances.
A notable shift has been observed in the drug landscape, with opium and its derivatives now dominating over 90 percent of substance abuse cases.
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.
After taking over, Director General of Police (DGP) Rashmi Ranjan Swain ordered the heightening of operations against drug peddling in J&K.
Under his leadership, the Police force has undertaken concerted efforts to combat the drug menace.
The DGP emphasised that a large portion of illicit drugs originate from across borders, with links to terrorism financing.
He pledged unwavering escalation against narcotics dealers and assured support for victims caught in this crime.
The DGP appealed for the cooperation of all stakeholders in creating a drug-free J&K.
His zero-tolerance approach has led to increased arrests and seizures, disrupting drug trade networks.