The escalating issues of substance abuse among youth and the increasing prevalence of Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) among teenage girls are posing alarming mental health challenges in parts of North Kashmir, according to experts.
Dr. Tajamul Hussain, Associate Professor and Head of Psychiatry at GMC Baramulla, expressed concerns about the situation. He mentioned that the Addiction Treatment Facility (ATF) at GMC Baramulla has registered 1100 patients, with 900 of them currently under treatment. Many of these individuals are intravenous (IV) drug abusers, exposing themselves to dangerous opioids like injectable heroin. The clinic receives approximately 30 patients daily, with around five new registrations. These risky practices are leading to a range of mental health issues among these patients, with the added risk of infections spreading within the community.
Dr. Parvaiz Masoodi, the Medical Superintendent of AHGMC, highlighted that the ATF started its operations in 2022, serving patients from North Kashmir, including areas like Baramulla, Kupwara, Sopore, Tangmarg, Uri, Keran, Rafiabad, and the surrounding regions. The clinic offers free medication and counseling to those struggling with various addictions and drug abuses. Currently, around 100 patients are receiving free medication at the OST center. Dr. Tajamul pointed out that Buprenorphine, a synthetic opioid provided free of cost, plays a significant role in helping patients overcome IV drug abuse.
Aside from substance abuse, Dr. Tajamul also drew attention to the growing issue of PCOD among teenage girls in Kashmir. Over the past 2-3 years, the prevalence of PCOD has surged, contributing to infertility. Hormonal changes in teenage girls can lead to behavioral shifts, potentially resulting in depression and self-harm.
To understand the reasons behind the increasing cases of PCOD in Kashmir, studies are underway, and GMC Baramulla plans to collaborate with the endocrinology department for further research. Healthcare officials noted that PCOD in teenage girls can manifest as borderline personality disorder, exhibiting symptoms such as impulsivity, mood swings, self-harm behavior, and even suicidal thoughts.
Dr. Tajamul stated that ATF Baramulla is a leading facility that strictly adheres to guidelines from AIIMS Delhi. The staff is trained by AIIMS, and medications are sourced exclusively from AIIMS, showcasing positive results in just one year.
Doctors at GMC Baramulla emphasized that the dual challenges of substance abuse and PCOD underscore the need for comprehensive mental health initiatives and increased awareness to address these pressing concerns in North Kashmir. They stressed that creating widespread awareness, implementing stringent regulations against drug peddlers, and involving all stakeholders are crucial measures to combat drug abuse and ultimately reduce mental health issues in the region.