Srinagar,  June 29:

While the majority of the people abusing drugs in Kashmir fall in the age group of 10-20 years, the age at which a person starts taking drugs also has been becoming lower in the recent past, data reveals.

Data sourced from department of psychiatry of the Government Medical College Srinagar reveals that 76.8 percent of people abusing drugs are between the ages of 10 to 20 years. And 94.4 percent of those found to be abusing drugs start with cigarettes, the data shows.

The major reason, in almost 96 percent of cases, has been “peer pressure”.

The data is part of a study carried out by the department of psychiatry of the medical college.

Last week, a mother brought her eight-year-old son to the Drug De-addiction Centre (DAC) of the Government Medical College Srinagar with a complaint that he was stealing cigarettes from his father.

When the doctors probed, they found that the child had already started smoking from the cigarette butts lying around the house and the addiction was now pushing him to steal cigarettes.

The case, Dr Yasir H Rather, associate professor and in-charge of DAC said, was a vivid example of how substance abuse starts.

“The cigarettes were available around the house, the child looked at his father as a role model and there was lack of supervision on his activities,” he said.

He said that for most people, substance abuse started like that – curiosity, stress, thrill, quest accompanied by availability of drugs and lack of supervision and reprimand.

“It is clear, a person most likely to get onto drugs is an adolescent in the company or friends already exposed to drugs and with easy access to cigarettes and other substances,” Dr Rather said.

However, what is more shocking is that the age of starting substance abuse is lowering every year. The recent experiences from DAC reveals that children as young as eight years have a brush with substances of abuse. The most abused substance in this age group is inhalants and solvents. A study by a postgraduate student of psychiatry found that 70 percent of people abusing inhalants used Fevicol SR.

Dr Arshid Hussain, professor of psychiatry at GMC Srinagar, who has been instrumental in framing the J&K Drug De-Addiction Policy, blamed the growing prevalence of substance abuse on weakening family bonds and deteriorating societal set-up.

“Substance use is a hugely complex problem when we try to search roots. Multiple factors including biological predisposition, development, and social context interplay to lead to this complex behavior,” he said.

He said that social context seemed to be playing pivotal role in increasing number of substance users in young children in Kashmir. “Social correlates which include peer pressure, parent-child conflict, child physical and sexual abuse, family dysfunction, scholastic failure, estrangement from teachers and deviant networking because of social networking sites were all working towards creating a drug crisis in Valley,” he said.

Dr Rather added that the modern family set-up, where both the parents were working and there was hardly any “quality time” being spent with children, predisposed them as adolescents to risky behavior. Moreover, he said, the prevalent situation in Kashmir had narrowed down the avenues where young people could channelize their energies and this resulted in “risky behavior”, including substance abuse.

Courtesy: Greater Kashmir