Srinagar- Drug addiction has grown into a silent epidemic at J&K and despite its high prevalence, awareness of the problem is low.
Jammu and Kashmir is close to the “Golden Crescent”, a name given to the opium-producing countries of South Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, which produces 80% of the opium world opium and is considered the main source of the illicit drug trade. In such a scenario, it becomes more imperative to reduce the threat of drug abuse in J&K.
In order to combat this growing societal problem, the government of Jammu and Kashmir has issued its first drug addiction policy to engage relevant departments and the masses in the efforts to curb the menace of drug addiction here .
J&K is the first UT in the country only after the state of Punjab, which has its own drug detox policy. Drug addiction has required a multi-pronged strategy and the policy integrates social, medical and legal aspects to better address the problem. The policy, while emphasizing the need to have standards of care in drug treatment centers and removing the taboo surrounding the problem, also inculcates the establishment of drug treatment centers with appropriate guidelines and standards of care. These centers are being set up in all district hospitals as part of a centralized program to improve access to facilities for those seeking help for substance abuse. The government has also launched Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) to help those affected recover from life-threatening opium addiction.
Substance abuse is responsible for increased crime, increased moral degradation and lower youth participation in economic activities. If not handled properly, it can lead to the annihilation of our young generation. The threat of drug addiction is spreading wide and fast in the form of an epidemic and places where a bus cannot go, deadly drugs reach.
To combat this social scourge at J&K, the government has devised a detailed mechanism to oversee and review the implementation of the drug rehabilitation policy and has even called on members of civil society to ensure that the threat drugs are combated effectively. Under this mechanism, a Policy Implementation Oversight Committee at UT level and Drug Rehabilitation Centers Oversight Committees at Jammu and Kashmir Division level have been formed. The UT level committee has been entrusted with the task of suggesting changes in drug addiction policy from time to time as required and trying to seek financial support for various drug addiction activities in Jammu and Kashmir .
Similarly, divisional level committees have been tasked with inspecting existing drug treatment centers in Jammu and Kashmir and granting or canceling licenses after thorough inspection of infrastructure, manpower and standards of care. These committees are also expected to advise various stakeholders from time to time for the implementation of the detox policy in the field and review the monitoring of prescription drug abuse and suggest corrective actions to the drug controller.
The policy focuses on various key aspects including prevention, rehabilitation and integration, training and awareness raising, community involvement, sensitization, upgrading/creating drug treatment centres. It presents a comprehensive action plan to tackle the problem of substance abuse in its entirety. It is pertinent to mention here that there has been a sharp increase in physical, mental, and substance use disorders over the past two decades in UT.
There has been an alarming change in the pattern of substance use in terms of increased number of female users, decreased age at first use, increased use of solvents, injectable opiates and steroids as well as an increase in drug-related deaths (overdoses and accidents).
More so, for effective monitoring and enforcement, the government has also formed the Anti-Narcotics Task Force (ANTF) in coordination with the Excise and Agriculture Departments to map areas planned cultivation and take corrective measures in terms of destruction of illegal crops. on private and public lands.
The ANTF was further requested to develop an action plan to prevent such cultivation in the next season. The ANTF will also undertake extensive awareness campaigns to inform the public about the risks and associated issues, and plan a schedule of activities accordingly. The working group will institutionalize the mechanism for promoting large-scale reporting on the illegal cultivation, transport, trade and consumption of drugs and their synthetic derivatives; through NGOs, PRI and Volunteers.
In summary, the implications of policy decisions must be considered explicitly not only to prevent harm but also to promote health. Arguably, major health improvements can only be achieved through large-scale impacts that benefit both high-risk groups and the general public. In this aspect, UT of Jammu and Kashmir has taken the lead in tackling this serious societal issue on a large scale.
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