Although the use of various psychoactive substances such as alcohol, cannabis and opioids has been observed in India for centuries, the current dimension of the extent and pattern of psychoactive substance use and the problems associated with their use are not well documented.
The National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi was entrusted with the responsibility to lead the technical and scientific aspects of the National Survey on Extent and Pattern for Substance Use in India which was conducted in all the 36 states and UTs of the country, in collaboration with ten other medical institutes and a network of 15 NGOs.
Drug Abuse in India
Substance abuse exists in all population groups but adult men bear the brunt of substance use disorders.
Alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used by Indians. About 14.6% of population (between 10 to 75 years) consume alcohol. States with the highest prevalence of alcohol use are Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Punjab, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa.
After Alcohol, Cannabis and Opioids are the next commonly used substances in India. About 2.8% of the population (3.1 crore individuals) reports having used any cannabis product within the previous year.
It has been estimated that there are about 8.5 lakh people who inject drugs.
Of the total cases estimated by the report, more than half of them are contributed by states like Punjab, Assam, Delhi, Haryana, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim and Uttar Pradesh.
About 60 lakh people are estimated to need help for their opioid use problems.
More and more children are taking to alcohol consumption and the highest percentage of children who are addicted to alcohol are in Punjab followed by West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
According to NCRB data, in 2019, 7719 out of the total 7860 suicide victims due to drug abuse/alcohol addiction were male.
Even in the data relating to deaths due to road accidents, drugs & alcohol are one of the most causative factors.
Reasons for use of drugs in India
India is at the location between Golden Crescent (Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan) and Golden Triange (Burma, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam) which are the two largest opium producing regions of the World.
Students and Youth consume drugs as a stress buster from their studies or work pressure. It is generally seen that an unemployed youth, out of frustration, ends up in taking drugs.
Peer pressure and other psychological factors like the glamour attached to it and out of fun can cause teens to engage in risky behaviours, leading to substance abuse.
People in the lower income group who cannot have an adequate amount of food, take drugs to sleep or relax.
The cause behind drug menace is the drug cartels, crime syndicates and ultimately the ISI which is the biggest supplier of drugs.
The African as well as the Southasian route being misused to bring drugs into the country.
Impact of Drug Abuse
Drug abuse leads to physical, psychological, moral and intellectual decay. This means wastage of economic potential of young generation.
Drug addiction causes immense human distress. Incidence of eve- teasing, group clashes, assault and impulsive murders increase with drug abuse.
Drug use can lead to social and emotional problems and can affect relationships with family and friends.
Problems with memory, attention and decision-making, which make daily living more difficult.
Illegal production and distribution of drugs have spawned crime and violence worldwide.
Increase in incidences of HIV, hepatitis B and C and tuberculosis due to addiction adds the reservoir of infection in the community burdening the health care system further.
Women in India face greater problems from drug abuse. The consequences include domestic violence and infection with HIV, as well as the financial burden.
International Efforts to fight Drug abuse
The first International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was observed by the UN General Assembly on June 26, 1987. Since then, every year, this day marks the coherent and seamless global cooperation to achieve a drug-free society. So far, the UN has organized three international conventions in 1961, 1971 and 1988. The first one sought to eliminate the illicit production and non-medical use of opioids, cannabis and cocaine. The meeting held in 1971 extended the scope to the psychotropic medications or synthetic drugs (e.g., amphetamines, barbiturates and LSD). The third convention against illicit trafficking was targeted at the suppression of the illegal global market, and the restriction was also extended to the precursor chemicals.
India is also signatory to the following International treaties and conventions:
United Nations (UN) Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961)
UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971).
UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988)
UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) 2000
Efforts by India to reduce Drug abuse
As enshrined in its constitution (Article 47) and being one of the signatories of the United Nation's International Conventions, India had the onus act to eliminate the use of illicit drugs, to develop measures to prevent drug use and to ensure availability of treatment for people with drug use disorders.
India has adopted the three-pronged strategies - supply, demand and harm reduction.
Drug De-addiction Programme (DDAP)
Following the 1971's UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, established an Expert Committee to look into the issue of drug and alcohol use in India.
The Committee's report was submitted in 1977, and after approval from the Planning Commission, Drug De-addiction Programme (DDAP) was rolled out in 1985-1986.
The primary aim of the DDAP was drug demand reduction.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985
India is a signatory to the UN Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971 and the Convention on Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988 which prescribe various forms of control aimed to achieve the dual objective of limiting the use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes as well as preventing the abuse of the same.
The primary aim of the NDPS was 'to prevent and combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking', an apparent emphasis on the supply reduction.
The administrative and legislative setup in the field of Narcotics has been put in place in the country in accordance with the spirit of the UN Conventions.
The basic legislative instrument of the Government of India in this regard is the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.
The Act provides stringent provisions for the control and regulation of operations relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
It also provides for forfeiture of property derived from, or used in, illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
It also provides for death penalty in some cases where a person is a repeat offender.
National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse
The consultative committee (an advisory committee formed by the NDPS Act), which was constituted in 1988, formulated a national-level policy to control drug abuse.
The committee created a fund, National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse and involved a couple of other major stakeholders - the Ministry of Health (and Family Welfare) and the Ministry of Welfare (currently Social Justice and Empowerment).
The Ministry of Health was entrusted with the job of prevention and treatment of drug dependence, whereas the Ministry of Welfare was assigned with the responsibility of the rehabilitation and social integration of people with drug dependence.
The Ministry of Health established seven treatment centres during the first phase (in 1988).
The aims of these centres were treatment, drafting of educational material and training of medical and paramedical staff to generate the future workforce to deal with the problem of drug abuse.
Other Policy and Schemes
Over the last three decades, there has been a substantial expansion of services in all dimensions.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment published the draft policy of the drug demand reduction, the National Drug Demand Reduction Draft Policy in 2013.
To scale up the existing services, the Ministry has rolled out the 'Central Sector Scheme of Assistance for Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and Social Defence Services.'
The Ministry of Social Justice has also published its five-year plan, 'National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction' in 2018.
The Mental Health Care Act (2017) has included alcohol and drug use disorders under its ambit. This measure is likely to increase the adherence to the human rights, to ensure non-discrimination, the respect to the right to autonomy and confidentiality, to increase the availability and access to the minimum standard of care and rehabilitation for people with substance use disorders.
Nasha Mukt Bharat campaign
This campaign launched this year in 2020, is run for 272 Most Affected Districts’ by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment with focus on institutional support, community outreach and awareness generation.
It focuses on a three-pronged strategy combining-
Efforts of Narcotics Bureau,
Outreach/Awareness by Social Justice and
Treatment through the Health Dept.
These districts are identified based on inputs from Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and findings of Comprehensive National Survey done by Ministry.
Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan in 272 districts is from 15th August 2020 to 31st March 2021.
Abhiyaan Action Plan has the following components:-
Awareness generation programmes in the community and Youth in particular
Focus on Higher Educational institutions, University Campuses and Schools
Community outreach and identification of dependent population
Focus on Treatment facilities in Hospital settings
Capacity Building Programmes for Service Providers.
National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) for 2018-2025
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formulated and is implementing a National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) for 2018-2025.
The Plan aims at reduction of adverse consequences of drug abuse through a multi-pronged strategy.
The activities under the NAPDDR, inter-alia, include awareness generation programmes in schools/colleges/Universities, workshops/seminars/ with parents, community based peer led interactions intervention programmes for vulnerable adolescent and youth in the community, provisioning of treatment facilities and capacity building of service providers.
The Ministry has also initiated focused intervention programmes in vulnerable districts across the country with an aim to increase community participation and public cooperation in the reduction of demand for dependence-producing substances and promote collective initiatives and self-help endeavour among individuals and groups vulnerable to addiction or found at risk.
Considering the enormous challenge of substance use disorders in the country, there is an urgent need of policies and programmes which can bring relief to the large number of affected Indian citizens.
Scientific evidence-based treatment needs to be made available for people with Substance use disorders.
A coordinated, multi-stakeholder response will be necessary to scale-up treatment programmes in the country.
Evidence-based substance use prevention programmes are needed to protect the young people.
A conducive legal and policy environment is needed to help control drug problems.
Harm reduction needs to be embraced widely as a philosophy to deal with substance use.
Prevention of drug abuse and its health and psychosocial impact should be made part of the curriculum from the upper primary level.
Revival of school clubs for early identification of drug users and expert intervention and setting up of suggestion box in schools.
Awareness building and educating people about ill effects of drug abuse.
Community based intervention for motivational counselling, identification, treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts.
Training of volunteer/service providers and other stakeholders with a view to build up a committed and skilled cadre.
Undertake drug demand reduction efforts to address all forms of drug abuse including dependence related to the consumption of two or more substances at the same time.
Drug menace is the manifestation of deep-rooted distortions in the socio-cultural, economic and political system. Being systemic and multi-dimensional, its solution shall have to be systemic and multi-pronged.
It is emphasized the need of preventive, punitive and curative measures to tackle the menace.
There is an urgent need to understand the complexity of the problem having far-reaching social, economic and political implications.
There is a need to address all these factors responsible for drug menace in the region as punitive measures alone cannot uproot this menace.
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Saffron cultivation is believed to have been introduced in Kashmir by Central Asian immigrants around the 1st Century BCE.
Pampore region, in India, commonly known as Saffron bowl of Kashmir, is the main contributor to saffron p