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Fighting Religious, Chemical Addiction


Meanwhile, as Sahil was busy getting high, the price of his daily requirement of one strip (eight tablets) went up from Rs 50 ($0.76) to Rs 150 ($2.29). Coming from a middle class family of limited means from the Dalgate area of Srinagar, it also meant demanding more money from family and more fights. Each fight required a larger dosage for numbing his emotions down, and to get back to a euphoric state.

About two years ago, after another fight over money, Sahil bought three strips. While his daily ritual consisted of four tablets in the morning and four in the afternoon, supplemented with hash in the evening, on that day he gulped down all three strips with only half-hour breaks in between. Suddenly his heart was palpitating, and he was vomiting. He rushed home, where he began having seizures. He had overdosed, and found himself in hospital when he opened his eyes. The episode was followed by a month-long stint at a private rehab in Khanyar, north Kashmir. He went back to pills within a few days of his return.

The moment of reckoning seldom comes for an addict, but societal pressure did get to Sahil – with a touch of religion in the mix. Since intoxicating substances are haram (sin – forbidden) in Islam, social rejection of addicts as sinners is common. The disgrace is also felt by the families. Sahil said he was tired of it all, and had lost his izzat (honor) and sehat (health). The izzat factor is so intense that the center takes special care to keep the identities of its patients secret. Special permission is required from the Inspector General (IG) of the police to speak to Dr. Khan, even before you get a chance to talk with the patients. 

Dr. Khan detailed the daily schedule of the patients, which included medical rounds, sessions with counselors, meetings with psychiatrists, yoga for exercise, along with breaks for prayer in the prayer room in the compound. Religion is not officially a part of the curriculum at the center. Dr Khan, who is a practicing Muslim, has his own issues with the society’s – and in turn – his employees and patient’s relationship with religion. He said, “Every Friday I start getting excuses from work or programs for Friday namaz from 10:30 am, and people don’t return till 3 pm at times. There should be a time set for the namaz – no wasting time in its name.”

The period of early recovery is critical, Delhi based experiential counselor Vijay Simha says, and is the most crucial time for a patient. “The brain just starts healing. It starts functioning, and it is thinking. Early recovery mind wants answers,” Simha notes.

After a time of recovery, the person starts seeking knowledge. He will think about the purpose he has in life. It is very easy to fill this vacuum with religion. This is the predicament that waits Sahil and many like him: to return to society sure, with all the answers.

Another patient at the center, who was also recovering from Spasmo Proxyvon dependency and wanted to be a good Muslim in recovery, shared how he used to deal with guilt while using and wouldn’t offer namaz. For Fridays’ mandatory namaz at the local Masjid, he would wait to have his dose till after the prayers. Dr. Khan joked about him breaking his Roza (fasting during holy month of Ramadan) after the namaz.

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