In the Indian-administrated Kashmir, 80 per cent of the drug-using population comprises those who abuse prescription medicines, doctors say. Easy availability of medicines across the counter has only contributed to the enormity of the situation, they add.
It all started in the mid-nineties with the Valley’s population turning to drugs like Corex cough syrup, injectable pentazocine, benzodiazepines and spasmo proxyvon. The two-decade conflict in Kashmir, the highest militarised region in the world, is responsible for a spiraling drug problem amongst its populace, psychiatrists maintain.
Dr Arshid Hussain, a psychiatrist at the Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital, feels that the addicts have a high dependence level of prescription drugs because of easy availability. ”Out of the addiction cases that are reported at the hospital, school-going children comprise 15 to 20 per cent of that population; and 2 to 3 per cent are cases of solvent abuse.”
Here, drugs are not used for recreational purposes but as a coping mechanism to deal with the stresses of a conflict zone, a doctor from a de-addiction facility explains.
The indulgence of youth in illegal substances and alcoholism is on a rise, and so is depression and stress. To counter stress, and other related problems, youngsters are increasingly taking refuge in prescription drugs and banned psychotropic substances.
Experts say that the Kashmir situation is quite different from any other part of the world. Here, addicts avoid alcohol due to religious reasons and also because it is traceable (it smells); injectables also leave marks, so they stick to benzodiazepines, codeine phosphate and opiates, which are easily available and can only be traced during the middle and the severe phases of addiction.
The main reasons for a steep increase in alcohol and drug abuse in the Valley, barring the conflict, are broken homes and easy availability of prescription drugs, experts say. Drugs containing opioids such as codeine are consumed by most addicts, doctors say. Benzodiazepines like diazepam, alprazolam and cannabis derivatives like hashish, marijuana; and alcohol are also responsible for the surge in addiction.
Some school-going children are also consuming inhalants such as polish and glue. Even the Valley’s female population has taken up the use of nicotine, sedatives, and inhalants like iodex, boot polish, fevicol and ink-removers.
The Batamaloo De-addiction Centre is located in the premises of the Police Control Room.