There has been such a rise in the number of people impacted by drug abuse in Jammu and Kashmir that the government is now attempting to contain it with harsh regulations. According to a Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) report, Jammu and Kashmir are ranked fifth, in terms of marijuana and poppy cultivation in India. Six lakh people, or more than 4.5% of the territory's total population (based on the Census of 2011), are drug addicts in some capacity, according to a poll the J&K administration conducted in 2019.

The fact that 90% of these addicts were discovered to be between the ages of 17 and 33 is concerning. The Union Territory of J&K is said to have one of the highest rates of opioid use in the country. Many here have to deal with poor living circumstances, unemployment, and also being targeted by drug dealers. Kashmir division has around 70.000 drug addicts, according to a report released by the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), 31% of them are women.

The illicit drug market is comparable to a self-sustaining engine of economic expansion. A minimal level of demand is essentially guaranteed once drug traffickers introduce new drugs into an undeveloped market. They find buyers easily, as consumers become addicted. Demand grows, and profits are reinvested by vendors to grow their businesses. The perpetrators also relocate often.

At the Government Medical College in Srinagar's Oral Substitution Therapy (OST) Centre, only 489 cases were reported in 2016, but that number increased to 3,000 cases in 2017. With an increase of 2,000% over the previous five years, the number has reached 7,000 in 2019 and crossed 10,000 in 2021.

The sale and use of drugs that are grown and made in one region of the world often occurs thousands of kilometres away. International syndicates are involved in drug trafficking because the markets and revenues are so large. As a result, it falls under the definition of "Transnational Organised Crime", according to the NCB report.

"Unaware of the difference between good and bad company, a person can easily veer off the path and into social vices. From there, he will undoubtedly be unable to turn around his former life, which was once glimmering, prosperous, and active. Being normal in a world that is already circumspect and complex becomes an unattainable goal. In addition to that, Then he not only laments this life but also lets his life serve as a societal example for the rest of society," said Afaal, a local and a former addict.

He writes about his struggles, and the drug mafia. He struggled with drug addiction for over a year, and he still longs for the beauty of his former regular life. He is now trying to climb out of the bottomless pit.

"We have been holding drug de addiction awareness campaigns in educational settings like schools, colleges, universities and madrasas. However, they fail more frequently than they succeed—99% of the time. Conflict, a feeling of distress, chaos, and worry are the main causes of failure. We have been aimless, especially in Kashmir, where the voluntary service has largely been disregarded because it is our duty as Muslims to defend society against social ills ," said medical officer and chief warden of civil defence Dr Anayat, who has been working in the field for the past 15 years.

According to Dr Anayat "Relapse rates ranged from 60 to 70 percent in our programmes. Even if a patient received treatment in a drug de addiction centre he would still live in a complex society. After treatment, he will still be viewed as bad rather than having changed.

"Negative stories have had a harmful influence on society. We don't treat them like patients; we treat them like evildoers. Activists undoubtedly play a big part in raising awareness of this, but the situation on the ground is different. A publicity gimmick, that's all. Presently, rural areas are also contributing more cases. It was once restricted to towns and cities, but it is now sweeping across the country like wildfire.

"The patient requires compassion and social assistance despite the fact that he is undoubtedly vulnerable. His substance abuse disorder made it difficult for parents to recognise his peculiar behaviour. Lack of knowledge, negative coping mechanisms, and materialistic values derived from social norms have made them vulnerable."

He also said that it is possible to successfully embrace biological, psychological, social, and spiritual models for rehabilitation, "we must play a crucial part as a society. In addition, religious preachers must step forward and assist in Kashmir's eradication of this threat."

In Kashmir, heroin use is widespread. It is an opioid created from morphine, a natural chemical discovered in the Asian poppy plant's seed pod and is addictive. "Now, purchasing heroin is a daily activity. From hundreds to lakhs of rupees, the demand and price have gradually climbed as well. Drug pushers rule the black markets and often children are trapped into the trade by these brokers. It is a terrible industry. Identifying the parties involved would be more dangerous. These individuals live among us; they are our brothers, cousins, friends, and respectable citizens. but they spread this venom in Kashmir. They conspire to destroy the young generation," said Yasin Hassan, a state-level activist.

Tolerance to heroin can develop with continued use, and the addict then needs increasing amounts of the drug. Those who try to stop get withdrawal symptoms when they stop. symptoms include restlessness, aches and pains in the muscles and bones, nausea, vomiting, and cold flashes with goosebumps.

Since addicts are unable to explain what they have been doing, their family members become tired of their behaviour. It becomes a daily ritual to leave home in the morning and return at night.

"I've been using heroin for six months now, and it has control over me. I'm neither dead nor alive; we live like beggars; without drugs, a day would be like the day of judgement; on drugs, a day would be like an hour," said Akif, an addict, "I am no longer a normal person. I feel like a living corpse rather than a real person."

Because addiction impairs memory, addicts often lose track of time. According to Dr. Tariq who runs a neighbourhood clinic in north Kashmir, "if an unbiased investigation is conducted in Kashmir, we will discover young children using narcotics. Addicts will slowly perish, one by one, and after a while there will be a graveyard of addicts. We have a responsibility to safeguard our children since they are the foundation of this country."

The J&K administration has approached the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to establish drug de-addiction centres under the Scheme of National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction in 10 districts. "There are de-addiction centres being run by the Jammu and Kashmir Police in some areas, but keeping in view the intensity of the situation, there is a requirement for their establishment," said officials.