With an alarming 14% of Kashmir’s population, including females, abusing drugs, the Valley’s top medical fraternity is toying with the idea to combine local cultural moorings like religious preaching with Western method to de-addict and rehabilitate addicts.
The medical fraternity at Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital, which started the state’s first ever public sector de-addiction and rehab centre on Thursday, believes “accentuating the idea of sin through religion among abusers can yield results” in Kashmir.
“There are very few takers of alcohol in the Valley given its criticism by Islam. Unlike the West, Government Medical College (GMC) faculty will not only focus on harm-reduction, but complete remission,” said Dr Arshad Hussain, a leading psychiatrist at the GMC.
The GMC has decided to rope in religious preachers for regular interactions with the patients at the new 15-bed facility for de-addiction and counselling. “Preachers play an influential role in our society. We hope to get desired results,” said Dr Hussain.
According to the United Nations International Drug Control Programme survey of 2008,, there were more than 70,000 drug addicts in Kashmir, of which 4,000 were women.
“We have decided for the first time to have de-addiction ward for females at the community health centre (CHC) as we surprisingly are getting female patients too,” said Dr Mushtaq, a senior GMC faculty.
Psychiatrist Dr Zaid Ahmad Wani, who has done surveys in the past, where 7% to 10% of the Valley population was identified as drug abusers, pointed out that females mainly abuse sleeping pills and anti-depressants.
“Among females, there were many cases of induced abuse by overuse of prescribed drugs,” said Dr Wani.
Several GMC psychiatrists claim that there is a phenomenal jump in number of patients because of the ongoing turmoil.
“Before 1990 (pre-militancy era), the only substance abused was cannabis that had some social sanctity among Sufi preachers. However, the ongoing conflict saw increasing abuse of harder substance like Opioid. We have abusers from ages 12 to 60. Juveniles mainly abuse ink remover fluids and boot polish,” said Dr Wani.
Dr Hussain said there was a presumption that urbanisation flips drug abuse, but Kashmir is witnessing a reverse. “There are areas where buses do not reach, but drugs do. Situation is alarming,” said Dr Hussain.
Unlike the predominant phenomena of drug abusers having a criminal past, Dr Hussain said, “Most drug abusers in the Valley have no criminal record or even psychiatric disorder.”
The new facility thrown open at the SMHS on International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking will aim to detoxify abusers, give motivational enhancement for behavioural changes and training techniques to prevent relapse.
Speaking at the centre, National Conference (NC) president Dr Farooq Abdullah stressed on the need for a partnership between civil society groups and the government to fight the menace of drug abuse through a multi-pronged strategy.
“The government should intensify its efforts to ensure youth are protected from those nefarious elements that make money and play politics by ruining the lives of our future generation,” said Dr Abdullah.