While last year Jammu and Kashmir police filed around 100 cases under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in Kashmir, and arrested 1560 persons, the police say the substance abuse is becoming a serious issue.
While doctors say heroin addiction is an expensive affair. In a study ‘Prevalence and Pattern of Substance Use in 10 districts of Kashmir” conducted by the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences- Kashmir, (IMHANS-K) last year says that there are around 67 468 drug abusers in Kashmir and prevalence of all substance dependence is 2.87%.
The study says the prevalence of opioid dependence is 2.23%. The study says the estimated number of Injecting Drug Use (IDUs) are 32097 and 53.5% of opioid users were sharing needles while injecting drugs. The study says only 35.1% of IDUs had undergone screening for Hepatitis C virus and more than half (56.33%) of them tested positive for HCV infection.
As IMHANS-K study says the average monthly expenditure on consumption of heroin by a user is Rs 88, 183, the doctors say it becomes difficult for the drug abusers to even get hepatitis C virus test as it costs around Rs 3000. “The medication of hepatitis C virus is free in the government run hospitals but the problem is that patients don’t know about it,” says a doctor.
On an average one to two grams used by drug addicts per day costs them around Rs 2000 to Rs 6000. As addicts start taking IV heroin doses after getting addicted, their expenses also increase. They start stealing, selling their gadgets, selling household items, taking debts, stealing from family members, involving themselves in thefts, and also getting into the sale and purchase of drugs. “It is an abyss. It drowns an addict emotionally, physically and financially and it creates a huge financial and emotional burden for their families also,” says a doctor.
“We see patients from all backgrounds. They come from educated middle class families, they also come from working class families and they come from almost all districts,” says a psychiatrist posted in a hospital in South Kashmir. He says most of the patients are in the age group of 20 to 30, who start with medical opioids and quickly shift to IV heroin and most of them contract hepatitis-C virus due to needle sharing.
Alone in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district the police have registered 89 cases under the NDPS Act in 2022 and 30 persons have been booked under preventive detention law. Top police officials maintain that Pakistan is pushing drugs into Jammu and Kashmir using smugglers, touts and even drones. The police sources also say drug dealers are pushing drugs to the Valley from Punjab and Himachal borders also.
The IMHANS-K study found opioid dependence has spread across all parts of Kashmir valley and is no longer concentrated in border areas. “In every district of Kashmir, people have been seeking treatment for opioids predominantly. Heroin is the most widely used opioid in every district of Kashmir.”