Drug abuse on rise in J and K

Drug abuse on rise in J and K

Attempts are being made to establish heroin-making factory in the border state

At a time when Indo-Pak authorities are stuck in the middle of a row over the seizure of huge quantity of drugs from a Pakistani truck in Uri area of north Kashmir, use of deadly and destructive brown sugar has pushed hundreds of Kashmir youth to the brink of darkness and eventually death.Rampant drug abuse in the Valley is not unknown, but a survey carried out by experts has startling facts that consumption of deadly brown sugar and heroin has become the most serious problem in Kashmir over the past few years. 

The survey carried out by Valley’s noted psychiatrist Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Margoob reveals that cases using cocaine which costs the addict about Rs 2000 to Rs 2500 a day have also surfaced. “The epidemic has spread to almost all segments of society, particularly the younger productive age. The number of people whose entire lives may centre on obtaining drugs for their compulsive indulgence is increasing by the thousands,” it added. 

The survey, carried out by a team of experts led by Dr Margoob, warned that no state or national level measure will be adequate in countering the drug menace unless all the concerned facts and factors linked with the problems are considered in their proper perspective. 

It highlighted horrifying facts that attempts were being made to establish heroin processing laboratories in Kashmir. “Such developments will have a far-reaching devastating repercussions. It was only after the emergence of heroin laboratories in Pakistan in early 80s that drug addiction there spread so rapidly within a few years and every 15th adult male in urban and every 22nd in the rural Pakistan was affected by this menace,” Dr Margoob told Deccan Herald.Giving the background of drug abuse in Kashmir, he said: “Prior to 1989, there were some pockets in Kashmir where addicts used to take cannabis. But after 1990s, new types of drugs came to Kashmir which include deadly brown sugar.” 

About 40 per cent of drug addicts in Kashmir, he said, are students and  in the age group of 15-30 years. “If the trend continues at the present rate, the next generation will be doomed. Drugs will lead us to death, divorce, disaster, degradation and damage to one and all,” Dr Margoob warned. 

He blamed the government for failing to curb the menace of drug abuse in Kashmir. “If you see the figures, drugs are being supplied to the nearly 60 per cent of the addicts by chemists. Jammu and Kashmir is the only state where the Drug Act hasn’t been implemented yet,” he added. Dr Muzafar Khan, a renowned clinical psychologist of the Valley, who heads the drug de-addiction centre run by Jammu and Kashmir Police in Srinagar, confirmed that a good number of cases, where addicts consume brown sugar and heroin, have been reported in the centre during last few years. “Most of the cases are reported from Srinagar and south Kashmir’s Anantnag district,” he told Deccan Herald. 

Asked about the background of the abusers, he said: “They come from all socio-economic groups. Some of them earn Rs 1,000 a day and then spend it on drugs. They earn by cheating, normal trade and small thefts.”

Khan said medically it can lead to respiratory tract infections like tuberculosis, bronchitis and cancer. “AIDS and viral hepatitis are spread by drug addicts who inject, brown sugar causes impotence (reve­rsible). It can also lead to abscesses, infections of the heart, lungs and brain,” he said.“There are adverse personality changes in addicts as they display anti-authority behaviour, socially deviant behaviour, suffer from depression, harbour suicidal thoughts which may initially lead to threats and sometimes to action.

They also indulge in manipulative behaviour and compulsive lying,” Khan added.The geogra­phical location of Jammu and Kashmir makes transit of drugs possible across the state. A senior police officer told Deccan Herald that establishment of Jammu and Kashmir as one of the main transit points for smuggling brown sugar and acetyl anhydride is a reflection of the dangerous developments.

The seizure of 114 kg of brown sugar on January 17 was the biggest one since trade between India and Pakistan started along designated trade points in Kashmir in October 2008. On August 3, 2013, the police in Baramulla had recovered cocaine estimated to be worth Rs 10 crore in a raid on a truck coming from across the Line of Control (LoC). “We had warned people concerned previously that many traders were acting as a conduit for funding many militant organisations based in the Valley,” the police officer said. “This brown sugar consignment might have been sent to be sold in the markets in Kashmir, and, in turn, the money generated from that could have been used for militant activities.” 

Deputy Inspector General of Police (North Kashmir) JP Singh said role of Pakistani agencies in facilitating the smuggling of drugs can’t be ruled out. “The money which is being generated from narcotics is mostly used to fund terrorism related activities in the state. As per our investigation, it is suspected that Pakistani agencies are involved in the illicit drug trafficking. No vehicle can cross the LoC without proper checking unless there is connivance,” Singh said. 

However, authorities do not have an accurate estimate of how much contraband has already entered Kashmir through the trade route. Chemically brown sugar is a semi-synthetic and highly adulterated form of heroin. It is one of the most highly addictive available and most lethal of drugs. It is a highly tolerant and easily obtainable substance. The coffee-brown snuff-like powder comes in a small vial or in small wrappings of tissue paper commonly known as “pudis”.

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