Substance abuse or Drug abuse refers to the use of certain chemicals for the purpose of creating pleasurable effects on the brain. When a person use drugs for a long time, it can cause changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits as well. They can hurt a person in judgment, decision making, memory and ability to learn. There are over 190 million drug users around the world and the problem has been increasing at alarming rates, especially among young adults under the age of 30. Drug addiction, also called substance dependence or dependence syndrome, is a condition where a person feels a strong need to take a drug. A person who may easily become addicted to drugs is said to have an addictive personality. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines drug addiction as a “mental disorder”. After spending decades probing the brains of drug-loving lab animals and scanning the brains of human volunteers, scientists have developed a detailed picture of how addiction disrupts pathways and processes that underlie desire, habit formation, pleasure, learning, emotional regulation, and cognition. Addiction causes hundreds of changes in brain anatomy, chemistry, and cell-to-cell signaling, including in the gaps between neurons called synapses, which are the molecular machinery for learning. By taking advantage of the brain’s marvelous plasticity, addiction remolds neural circuits to assign supreme value to cocaine or heroin or gin, at the expense of other interests such as health, work, family, or life. Most drugs affect the brain’s “reward circuit,” causing euphoria as well as flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. A properly functioning reward system motivates a person to repeat behaviors needed to thrive, such as eating and spending time with loved ones. Surges of dopamine in the reward circuit cause the reinforcement of pleasurable but unhealthy behaviors like taking drugs, leading people to repeat the behavior again and again. These brain adaptations often lead to the person becoming less and less able to derive pleasure from other things they once enjoyed, like food, music, or social activities. No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to drugs. A combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors influences risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. One of the brain areas still maturing during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that enables us to assess situations, make sound decisions, and keep our emotions and desires under control. The fact that this critical part of an adolescent’s brain is still a work in progress puts them at increased risk for making poor decisions (such as trying drugs or continuing to take them). Also, introducing drugs during this period of development may cause brain changes that have profound and long-lasting consequences. At first, you may choose to take a drug because you like the way it makes you feel. You may think you can control how much and how often you use it. But over time, drugs change how your brain works. These physical changes can last a long time. They make you lose self-control and can lead you to damaging behaviors. Depending upon the substance of choice, the signs of being under the influence will vary. Drug addiction can create a number of problems that are common to all who live with the issue. These include: Hiding substance use, Lying about substances used or the amount of the drug used, Violent or erratic behavior, Extreme mood changes, Complaints of physical illness, Continued use of drugs despite negative consequences, Inability to maintain employment or function well at work, Rationalizing drug use despite consequences, Inability to remain clean and sober for any length of time, Disrupted sleeping and eating patterns and Choosing to get high over other activities. Talking about the Kashmir valley, it is thought to be one of the hardest hit places with drug use and the scenario worsened by the prevailing turmoil. The substance abusers in Kashmir have no profile as addicts are rich and poor, employed and unemployed, traumatized and resilient, educated and illiterate, rural and urban, young and old. The causes are varied as there are relationship issues, failed romantic bonds, break-ups, unemployment, acts of delusion, sudden arrest, killing of some dear one and the desire to impress and imitate peers already involved in drug abuse. In today’s world we are facing more challenges like unemployment, poverty, corruption, under-development etc. and all these problems contribute to form a new problem and that is, Drug Addiction in Kashmir valley. As the time passes through, the range of drugs increased to alarming level, drugs like narcotics, brown sugar, opium, morphine, depressants, alcohol, charas and many more are frequently used by the people of Kashmir valley. It is reported that tobacco, cannabis (charas), alcohol, benzodiazepines (sleeping pills, like alprax, valium), opiates (like codeine, heroin, morphine), brown sugar, inhalants (like fevicol SR, glue, paint thinner, petrol, shoe polish etc.) are the major drugs of abuse in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The geographic location of Jammu and Kashmir is such that the transit of drugs is easily possible across the area J&K. In addition, the prevailing turmoil is claimed to have worsened the drug abuse problem alongside an unusual increase in other psychiatric disorders in Kashmir. Psychiatrists say that substance abuse in Kashmir is widespread and on an average 4,000 addicts pay visit to Srinagar’s Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) annually, of which about 90 per cent abuse hard drugs like heroin. The rest, mostly teenagers, abuse different solvents such as Fevicol SR, correction fluid, glue, shoe polish and weed. The scenario of substance abuse in Kashmir is an alarming crisis and for the last two years or so we are witnessing a new trend: The addicts use hardcore heroin and brown sugar. It is noticed that roughly 30 per cent of substance abusers happen to be the students. According to a survey conducted by United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) there are seventy thousand drug addicts in Kashmir division alone including women four thousand. In Kashmir valley 65% to 70% students are drug addicts. As per government psychiatric disease hospital statistics 90% abusers belong to the age group of 17 to 35 years with a lifetime prevalence of drug addiction. In Kashmir valley the problem of drug addiction has metastasized for several reasons. To begin with, the role of the drug monitoring agencies and police in controlling the menace in the Kashmir Valley is very poor. In rural Kashmir, families are even unaware if a drug is being abused in their midst. It is observed that there is an increase in the crime rate, road accidents, suicides and suicidal attempts, deaths due to overdose, psychiatric disorders and high cost on general health issues due to chronic drug abuse like liver disorders, gastritis, accidental injuries and an increased risk for HIV infections due to Intravenous Drug Use (IDU). The studies conducted by the various government and private agencies have painted a grim picture about the substance users in the Kashmir valley. In a latest research paper by Dr Bilal, Dr Shayesta and Dr Mudasir on substance use in Kashmir valley, consciousness, causes, role played by Govt, Hurriyat and other private agencies was discussed. It was noticed that drug addiction is getting very common in Kashmir. There is a great need for creating awareness about drug abuse among people. Addiction is a complex but treatable condition. For some people, addiction becomes chronic, with periodic relapses even after long periods of abstinence. As a chronic, relapsing disease, addiction may require continued treatments to increase the intervals between relapses and diminish their intensity. While some with substance issues recover and lead fulfilling lives, others require ongoing additional support. The ultimate goal of addiction treatment is to enable an individual to manage their substance misuse; for some this may mean abstinence. Immediate goals are often to reduce substance abuse, improve the patient’s ability to function, and minimize the medical and social complications of substance abuse and their addiction. Treatments for addiction vary widely according to the types of drugs involved, amount of drugs used, duration of the drug addiction, medical complications and the social needs of the individual. Determining the best type of recovery program for an addicted person depends on a number of factors, including: personality, drugs of choice, concept of spirituality or religion, mental or physical illness, and local availability and affordability of programs. Department of psychiatry, of various medical colleges in Jammu and Kashmir should take a lead by conducting awareness and intervention programs in major districts of the state. Further, more drug dependence treatment and counseling centers be formed at all district levels. The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is a United Nations International Day against drug abuse and the illegal drug trade. It is observed annually on 26 June, since 1989, a date chosen to commemorate Lin Zexu’s dismantling of the opium trade in Humen, Guangdong, just before the First Opium War in China. Each year the day is celebrated to raise awareness of the major problem that illicit drugs represent to society. This day is supported by individuals, communities and various organizations all over the world. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has, over the years, been actively involved in launching campaigns to mobilize support for drug control. The UNODC often teams up with other organizations and encourages people in society to actively take part in these campaigns. Statistics repeatedly bear out the strong association between substance abuse and crime. This day recognises the severe impact that illicit drugs have on health, development, peace and security. Around 190,000 people die due to illicit drugs every year. But the damage visited upon lives and communities does not stop there. The World Drug Report provides a global overview of the supply and demand of opiates, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine-type stimulants and new psychoactive substances (NPS), as well as their impact on health. It highlights, through improved research and more precise data, that the adverse health consequences of drug use are more widespread than previously thought. Drug use damages health in the form of debilitating HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis, while drug trafficking nourishes money laundering, and deadly terrorism. Drug trafficking is a global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. UNODC is continuously monitoring and researching global illicit drug markets in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of their dynamics.
There are an estimated 20.9 Million people trapped in some form of slavery today. It’s sometimes called “Modern-Day Slavery” and sometimes “Human Trafficking.” At all times it is slavery at its core. The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation. It takes on many forms today such as Domestic Servitude, Forced Labor, Child Labor, Bonded Labor, Forced Marriage. Corruption, the great enabler of organized crime, exists throughout the drug supply chain. In a collective response to these challenges, countries unanimously agreed to counter the world drug problem. It is concluded that all countries work together to eliminate drug abuse at global level and elders, educationists, the religious leaders should come forward and support all people who want to eliminate drug abuse at state level. The world is facing lockdown at present due to COVID-19 spread threat. There are increased risks associated with alcohol and cannabis use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Excessive or high-risk cannabis and alcohol use can weaken our immune system and make us more susceptible to COVID-19 and other illness. The conditions around COVID-19 may lead people to increase alcohol and cannabis use due to: Feeling stress and anxiety from the pandemic and economic downturn, Feelings of social isolation and loneliness due to physical distancing. Some of the measures to prevent alcohol use are: Recognising and avoiding trigger situations (hunger, anger, tiredness, loneliness, peer pressure to use, seeing substances/users, being in situations previously associated with use), , Learning to cope with everyday problems that encourage drinking or use of the substance, Finding alternate sources of enjoyment, Dealing with stress, anxiety and mood symptoms. Some of the measures to prevent cannabis/ drug use are: Remove reminders of drug addiction from home, and other places we frequently visit. We can call on drug help hotline to get help from home. We should rely on our escape and avoidance skills by identifying alternative activities that respect social distancing, but conflict with addictive behavior. Such activities might include practicing mindfulness and relaxation, getting exercise, learning new skills, and communicating our goals and activities with loved ones and people who support us. For two decades, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been helping make the world safer from drugs, organized crime, corruption and terrorism. We are committed to achieving health, security and justice for all by tackling these threats and promoting peace and sustainable well-being as deterrents to them. The theme for the 2021 International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is “Share Facts On Drugs, Save Lives” emphasizes the need to improve the understanding of the world drug problem. COVID-19 has brought unprecedented public awareness on health, protective measures for staying healthy, and most importantly, and on protecting each other. A growing sense of global community and solidarity continues to emerge, as does the need to ensure health care for all. World Drug Day is a day to share research findings, evidence-based data and life-saving facts, and to continue tapping into a shared spirit of solidarity. UNODC invites everyone to do their part, by taking a firm stance against misinformation and unreliable sources; while committing to sharing only the real science-backed data on drugs and save lives. We conclude by quoting Martin Sheen, a drug addict who recovered, “My recovery is the single greatest accomplishment of my life. Without that, the rest of my life would have fallen apart.”
( The authors write regularly for the opinion pages of “The Kashmir Horizon”. Views are their own)