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Fighting Religious, Chemical Addiction


By Parul Abrol
TMP Guest Contributor

There was nothing about the young man’s appearance that gave an indication about his life or the plans he was making.

The lanky 19-year-old in a pair of faded blue jeans, a smart tweed pheran (traditional Kashmiri overcoat) over a hoodie, and sneakers looked like any another Kashmiri college student. But in fact he’d dropped out of school after ninth grade saying, “I just want to have a small business, a little shop maybe, and perform namaz five times a day. That’s all I want to do.”

Sahil (name changed) had been battling an addiction to Spasmo Proxyvon, an opioid-based painkiller, at the Drug Rehabilitation Centre run by Jammu and Kashmir Police Department, inside the Police Control Room campus in Batamaloo, Srinagar, for about a month.

This wild swing from chemical dependency to life of devotion in the span of a month is not unheard of, but it is a dilemma for counselors all over the world who aim to prevent risks of addiction to substances but also addiction to religion.

Studies have revealed that addicts early in their recovery have a tendency to form a relationship with God that often becomes dysfunctional – overdoing just like they overdid substances. Most of these studies have been done on recovering alcoholics who followed the Twelve Steps for recovery, based on a Christian notion of a higher power. The righteousness, the relief, and initial euphoria – which professionals term as the ‘pink cloud’ – followed by the absence of substance can lead many to believe that this connection with God is the only relationship they need to invest in to stay clean. Fervor for religion takes the place of exploring the depths of their problem and learning to bond with human beings around them.

Kashmir is a conflict zone, and the peace is always only temporary. Years of living under militancy, armed forces, night raids, disappearances, and killings have taken a toll on the society. In a perverse way, the violence has preserved its close-knit structure. Religion has also played a big part in keeping the community together in this conflict. The majority of the population in the Kashmir Valley is Muslim, and with the expulsion of Kashmiri Pandit community (Hindus) in the late 1980s when the militancy broke out, Islam has become the dominant religion with a significant impact on the local culture.

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