Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Drug Addiction is a Growing Concern

Rehana discusses a growing and disturbing threat to health and well being of Kashmiris

(Ms. Rehana Akhtar, 40, was born in Batamaloo, Srinagar. She received her B.Sc. in Basic Sciences and her M.Sc. in Environmental Sciences from the University of Kashmir. She subsequently took up the field of nursing, and completed B.Sc. in Nursing, Diploma A-Grade Nursing, and a Diploma in Stoma Therapy from the World Council of Enterostomal Therapists (WCET) Education Committee. Ms. Akhtar is a registered midwife and nurse, and Life Member of Trained Nurses Association of India, and the WCET. She is a Stoma Therapist in the Nursing Administration of the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), with over 15 years of experience in nursing care delivery. She has received the Award of Excellence for outstanding contribution in the Critical Care Nursing at the SKIMS, and is the recipient of India's "Florence Nightingale Award" for the year 2011-2012. She received the award from the President of India on 12 May 2012 at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi. Ms. Akhtar has attended numerous professional conferences, presented many papers, conducted research, written books, and received additional awards besides the two listed earlier. She is an active member of "The Courage", a registered civil society charity engaged in education, environmental protection, and eradication of child labor.)

Drug Addiction: An Impending Threat to Our Society

Substance abuse is known to be widespread among youth in Kashmir. It continues to spoil the lives of millions in Valley of Saints and Syeds (Peer Vaer). Drug addiction in Kashmir has not received proper attention of the government and civil society. The affliction has taken root for about two and a half decades. Drugs continue to ruin hundreds of thousands of people in Kashmir. Anantnag and Baramulla districts top the list of people suffering from drug addiction. Srinagar too has certain localities where youth (both males and females) have been misusing drugs leading to severe health related problems in general and mental illness in particular. This menace in our society goes unabated and one can imagine its impact on socioeconomic aspects of the productive age group of our state. The paradox is that both who have easy money and the ones who are unemployed abuse drugs in an otherwise economically fragile State.

Shayista 24 years old has been using Opioids right from her school and college days. Khalid 20 year old first experienced the drug (hallucinogen) misuse in the company of his peers. Both continue to be under the strong influence of drugs for the last few years. Their parents are well aware and are in constant touch with doctors for de-addiction and counseling. The story of many teenagers and young adults is no different.

According to sources, 35 to 40 percent of population inTulkhun, Sangam, Dupathyar, Sampthan and Nanil are the drug affected zones in Anantnag. 18 zones of Baramullah districts areinvolved in drug abuse. Among them are drivers as well as young people from well-off families. They use cough syrup, alcohol, alprax and brown sugar and also take intra-venous injections. Other frequently used drugs include depressants (barbiturates, benzodiazepines and others), hallucinogens, club drugs, opioids (heroin, morphine, codeine, OxyContin), inhalants, and stimulants (amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine, Ritalin and others).

Mostly school and college students are involved in drug addiction. About 20% of students in higher secondary schools and 30% in colleges are consuming illicit drugs. School children being a less risky group are employed for harvesting and processing addictive crops. That makes them vulnerable to this menace. There is a direct link between drug abuse among school-going children and an increasing dropout rate in Baramulla.

In Kashmir, young women, especially college girls are increasingly familiar with substance abuse. They most often use toluene, which is comparable to ‘sniffing glue.’ Toluene is found in paints, petrol, varnishes, lacquers, paint thinners, adhesives, glues. These substances are easier to get, but some of the women move on to opioids or other drugs. Drug addiction among young females is often in response to stress, peer pressure, family disputes, failure in life, examination stress, love affairs, and psychiatric disorders.

This social evil threatening the lives of thousands of young people across Kashmir is patronized by a flourishing nexus of illicit drug dealers, small-scale narcotics producers and market networks.Drug abuse is now showing a new trend whereby teenage girls and women are increasingly turning into substance abusers and addicts.

Drug abuse or misuse is ever-increasing and those responsible for supplying drugs have hardly been punished with the result the trade is flourishing with each passing day. Similarly, medicines are freely available (over the shelf), most of the times purchased without prescription by the people, at chemist shops across the valley. In the developed nations and middle economies nobody can buy any drug (except aspirin or digene) without prescription.

Medical Aspects

Drug addiction is a dependence on an illegal drug or a medication. It can cause an intense craving for the drug. For many people, what starts as casual use leads to drug addiction. Drug addiction can cause serious, long-term consequences, including problems with physical and mental health, relationships, employment and the law. Most drug addictions start with casual or social use of a drug. For some people, using the drug becomes a habit, and its use becomes more and more frequent.

Magnitude of the Problem

The problem of drug abuse in Kashmir was highlighted by the United Nations International Drug Control Programme survey in 2008 which revealed that there were more than 70,000 drug addicts in Kashmir, 4,000 of them women. That survey also revealed that 65 to 70 percent of the student community in Kashmir was into drugs and that 26 percent of female students were involved in drug abuse. More than 70 percent of addicts fall in the 18-35 age-group. According to one study, more than 200,000 people in the Kashmir valley were on opiates.

Social Disintegration

Drug use among the youth, specifically teenagers, presents an impending threat to our society. The addicts become immoral and commit crimes of various so in order to get drugs. They lose their conscience, self-control, will power and memory. They indulge in anti-social activities, which in turn stamp them as out castes in the society. Eventually, the abuse of drugs hast their untimely death if not checked in time. Drugs addiction is harmful not only for the addicted but also has negative impact on the fabric of the society. The effects of such an addiction can cause dangerous changes in the mind, body and spirit of the drug addict. It splits families, friends’ circles and subsequently society.

Young Drug addicts may physically live in the same house with their families, but live alone emotionally. They do not care about what happens to their near ones and these insensitivities extend towards society.Drugs addiction among the youth is killing them morally and socially as well as psychologically and even physically.

Causes and Risk Factors

Two main factors include: Environmental factors, including your family's beliefs and attitudes and exposure to a peer group that encourages drug use, seem to play a role in initial drug use. Physical addiction appears to occur when repeated use of a drug alters the way your brain feels pleasure. People of any age, sex or economic status can become addicted to a drug. However, certain factors can affect the likelihood of your developing an addiction: Family history of addiction. Men are twice as likely to have problems with drugs. Peer pressure is a strong factor in starting to use and abuse drugs. Other factors include lack of family involvement; a lack of attachment with your parents may increase the risk of addiction, as can a lack of parental supervision, anxiety, depression and loneliness. Using drugs can become a way of coping with these painful psychological feelings.

Recognizing drug abuse in teenagers

Frequently missing classes or missing school, a sudden disinterest in school or school activities, or a drop in grades may be indicators of drug use. Lack of energy and motivation may indicate your child is using certain drugs. Teenagers are generally concerned about how they look. A lack of interest in clothing, grooming or looks may be a warning sign of drug use. Teenagers enjoy privacy, but exaggerated efforts to bar family members from entering their rooms or knowing where they go with their friends might indicate drug use. Also, drastic changes in behavior and in relationships with family and friends may be linked to drug use. Sudden requests for money without a reasonable explanation for its use may be a sign of drug use. One may also discover money stolen from previously safe places at home. Items may disappear from one’s home because they're being sold to support a drug habit.


Dependence on drugs can create a number of life-changing complications, a range of both short- and long-term mental and physical health problems. These depend on what drug is taken. People who are addicted to a drug are more likely to get an infectious disease, such as HIV, either by sharing needles or through unsafe sex. If you're addicted to a drug, you're more likely to drive or do other dangerous activities while intoxicated. Behavioral changes may cause marital or family strife. Work performance may decline, and you may be absent from work more often. Academic performance and motivation to excel in school may suffer.


Drug addiction treatments include organized inpatient or outpatient treatment programs, counseling, and self-help groups to help you resist using the addictive drug again. Therapies such as counseling, addiction treatment programs and self-help group meetings can help you overcome an addiction and stay sober. Treatment programs generally include educational and therapy sessions focused on getting sober and preventing relapse.

An intervention is a carefully planned process in which family and friends, teachers, clergy members, or others join together to confront someone about the consequences of addiction and ask him or her to accept a treatment plan. A successful intervention involves careful planning, research and teamwork. If you think you need to set up an intervention, learn how to do it correctly. A carefully organized intervention can be very successful, but a poorly planned confrontation can make the situation worse.

Prevention: The best way to prevent an addiction to an illegal drug is not to take the drug at all. Use care when taking an addictive prescription drug. Your doctor may prescribe narcotics to relieve pain, benzodiazepines to relieve anxiety or insomnia, or barbiturates to relieve nervousness or irritation. A strong, stable bond between you and your child will reduce your child's risk of using or abusing drugs. Don't go back to the neighborhood where you used to get your drugs. And stay away from your old drug crowd. It may seem like you've recovered and you don't need to keep taking steps to stay drug-free. But don't stop seeing your psychotherapist, going to your support group meetings or taking prescribed medication. Your chances of staying drug-free are much higher if you continue treatment after you recover.

The Action Plan

Drugs addiction is a very serious problem and even if the addict is using prescribed drugs, the ill effects can be very harmful indeed. The government must take administrative, legal and policy measures that put an end to the menace of drug addiction. The right kind of information can help the addict avoid overdosing and it can also prevent medical-related complications. The adverse effects of addiction to drugs can be very difficult to endure, which is why the addict must be treated for their condition at the earliest.

Government and civil society should take a firmer view about preventing and stopping drugs addiction. There is an urgent need to have more de-addiction centres both for males and females (preferably separate for females), include consequences of drug abuse in school curriculum, crating awareness for teachers and parents, vigilance on social networking sites and new treatment modality: from detox and rehab to substitution therapy.

Unless serious measures are taken now, the very future of a large chunk of today’s youth will be severely compromised. The problem of drug addiction is too real and serious to be ignored. The governments need to involve communities and media in highlighting the perils associated with the drug addiction. Together we can root out this organized menace and bring to book the perpetrators of doom and gloom.

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