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Addicted Women of Kashmir Struggle With Little Help

Sniffing the Toluene found in common household products is an addiction with little escape for many women in Kashmir, India.


Women in Kashmir have unequal chances
of escaping addiction. Photo via

By Fionna Agomuoh


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There's little help for women with substance abuse problems in Kashmir, India, despite the increasing prevalence of addiction, especially among the young. In recent years, Toluene abuse has become widespread among college age women in Kashmir due to its easy accessibility. Toluene is a chemical found in paints, petrol, varnishes, lacquers, paint thinners, adhesives, glues, rubber cement and shoe polish, that can be inhaled to get high. But when they want to get clean, females find that inpatient help is unavailable. Women from Indian Kashmir can go to a single addiction center in Srinagar for a consultation or for medication—but the center doesn't admit female addicts. As Dr. Areeb Malik of the center says, “We prescribe medicines to female addicts but they are never kept under complete supervision which is most important for de-addiction.” So most women never return for follow-ups and many who may have begun “glue sniffing” for fun, or due to peer pressure or social stresses, are at greater risk of prolonged use, and of graduating to drugs such as opiates. According to the 2008 UN International Drug Control Program survey, 4,000 of the 70,000 drug addicts in Kashmir are women. The survey also found that of the 70% of students in Kashmir who have taken drugs, 26% are female.

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