Kashmir is brewing a deadly cocktail with political turmoil and despair pushing the youth into drug abuse, with new trends like students using ties to abuse ink removal fluids.
"Around 22% substance abusers in my survey were graduates, six percent post-graduates and 2% doctorate students. Many were ex-detainees...Mental health of people is growing poor in Kashmir," says Dr Waqar Ahmad, who is working with the Srinagar police rehabilitation centre. Ahmad's survey is based on hundreds of patients treated at the clinic since 2008.
The CAUSE, an NGO, blames the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir for unprecedented increase in drug abusers.
"Addiction to drugs has been growing fast in Kashmir since last two decades. Among young adults, it's increasing alarmingly," said Zubair Rasheed, head of the NGO. According to the CAUSE survey, the top reason, out of seven factors, driving people to substance abuse is socio-political disturbances. The other factors pointed out by the survey were free availability of drugs, stress of growing up, failing exams, failed love relationships, lack of parental guidance, bad company and too much pocket money.
Kashmir is witnessing new districts emerging as drug abusers' hubs. On the basis of medical records with the district administration, Baramulla district in north Kashmir has turned into a den with maximum cases of drug abusers. It is followed by Shopian, Anantnag, Srinagar, Kupwara, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Pulwama and Bandipora.
"This grim scenario reflects failure at systemic level as well as people level. Only local ethos and local value system can help fight the menace. We need to strengthen the community bonds," says Peerzada Muhammad Amin, head of the Master of Social Work department of Kashmir University. The districts that have emerged as major source of substance providers were Anantnag, Shopian and Pulwama. All these districts are known for cultivating bhang, phuki etc.
The NGO claims that use of fluid is increasing among students. "This is easily available and is most common among the young student fraternity. It is the main reason behind the rise in deaths in recent years," said Rasheed.
According to survey conducted by Kashmir psychiatric department, there are around 60,000 drug abusers, with 4,000 women abusers.
"We have received calls from women too at our clinic seeking help. They were mainly abusing sleeping pills," said Dr Ahmad.
Commonly abused drugs
1) Benzodiazepine, Corex, Alprax are the most commonly used drugs followed by the traditional Cannabis (Charas), Opium.
2) Use of fluid is increasing with the passage of time, this is easily available and is most common among the young student fraternity, it is a main reason behind the rise in deaths in recent years.
3) Brown sugar and alcohol addiction is most common among urban youth, reason for which is the tourist inflow.