Drug use among youth in militancy-hit Kashmir increasing
The nation's focus on the militant violence in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has pushed a major issue on the sidelines: increasing drug use among Kashmiri youth. There's been an 85% increase in drug and substance abuse cases over two years to 759 in 2016, according to data released by Srinagar's SMHS Hospital. Experts believe the stress from increased turmoil is pushing youth towards drugs.
Kashmir was home to an estimated 70,000 drug addicts, of whom 4,000 were women, according to a 2008 United Nations report. Officials said a majority of drug abuse patients admitted to Srinagar's SMHS Hospital are aged 15 to 35. Around 90% of these are aged 15 to 25. Combined cases of drug abuse and psychological issues have increased 130% to 33,222 in 2016.
Police say the drugs, which are easily available in J&K, come from neighboring Pakistan. The ongoing militancy has pushed many youths, who are looking for an escape from the unending violence, towards drugs. "Stress and the overall turmoil naturally play a role but other factors like peer pressure, unemployment, easy availability" of drugs are major reasons for narcotics abuse, said leading psychiatrist Arshad Hussain.
Cannabis is the most commonly used drug, largely because it's easily available. Medicinal opioids and inhalants such as glue and paint thinner are also being abused by Kashmiri youth, officials said. Hussain said, "currently the addiction has reached as low as 10-year-olds getting into solvent abuse." He said children get introduced to cannabis, a gateway to more addictive or dangerous drug, in schools.