INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST DRUG ABUSE: Experts decry rise in substance abuse as plan to tackle menace gathers dust

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A proposal by Government Medical College (GMC) here to augment infrastructure and manpower at SMHS hospital’s drug de-addiction center is gathering dust for more than a year even as number of patients visiting the center has increased manifold. 
Commemorating International Day for Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking, doctors, students and researchers in Tuesday attempted to draw attention of government and society towards increasing substance abuse in Kashmir, during an event organised by department of psychiatry at the GMC. 
Sharing their experiences at the drug de-addiction center, the doctors called for stronger and multi-sector response to substance abuse. The data released by the department showed that during past three years, over 10,000 patients have been seen at the department.
Head department of psychiatry, Dr Mohammad Maqbool Dar said recently a meeting had been convened by government to explore how various departments could be involved to play a role in delivering a better response to substance abuse, “especially among youth and students”. 
“Let us hope, we are able to put the ideas into a concrete plan,” Dr Dar said.
Last year, the Chief Minister’s grievance cell had taken cognizance of the citizen’s concerns over the problem and promised a full-fledged program to try and address the problem of substance abuse. 
Though the GMC later submitted a detailed proposal for strengthening infrastructure and augmenting manpower and involving other departments for tackling substance abuse, no follow up action has been taken by authorities concerned, officials at the GMC said.
During today’s program, various studies were presented to highlight the problem of substance abuse. A study by Dr Hammid Ismail, a postgraduate scholar at the department, brought to fore a major concern of solvent/inhalant abuse in Kashmir. The researcher shocked the audience with the findings. “Fevicol SR is the most abused solvent in Kashmir,” said the researcher. However, he reported that a majority (70 percent) of those abusing solvents/inhalers were also using other drugs, mostly cannabis. 
The doctors expressed concern over the use of solvents arguing that it was “one of the first drugs being experimented with”. “In our study, one of the youngest person abusing solvents was an eight year old,” said a doctor. Researchers said that two-thirds of those abusing solvents were between age group of 10 to 19.
Presenting statistics, Dr Seema Batool said that over the years the socio-political unrest in Kashmir had aggravated the situation. “Conflict has led to more experiences of death and destruction which has pushed vulnerable individuals to illicit substance abuse,” said the psychiatrist.
They lamented “poor implementation of licensing laws” for sale of psychotropic drugs in the state. A debate over legalisation of cannabis was also held at the event during which participants spoke in favour and against the topic, a much talked about discussion world over.
 

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