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Increasing Drug Abuse a Major Concern in India

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Drug Abuse

It is not just substance abuse, prescription drug abuse is also growing in India and the problem is serious in South Asia, according to a UN report

(The author Dr Anjana Kannankara is the Chairperson CSA, Dir TGL, Editor The Intl Journal, Sr Dir FWO)

The epidemic of substance abuse in young generation has assumed alarming dimensions in India. Changing cultural values, increasing economic stress and dwindling supportive bonds are leading to initiation into substance use. The picture looks grim if the world statistics on the drugs scenario is taken into account.

Misuse of narcotics and psychoactive substances is on the rise worldwide. Drug abuse in India is constantly rising according to reports. Polydrug use is now a well-established pattern of drug misuse. To complement the effects of preferred drugs, users select a substitute from a range of drugs.

Prescription drug abuse is also growing in India and the problem is serious in South Asia. According to a UN report, drugs enter the cross-border illicit markets through various channels, being diverted from India’s pharmacy industry and smuggled from Afghanistan. It also reports that, 1 million heroin addicts are registered in India, and unofficially, there are as many as 5 million.

India accounts for 10 percent of the total pharmaceuticals produced in the world. In its report, UNODC noted that though the law required all drugs with abuse potential to be sold only on prescription, there was significant diversion from this. Regular parental monitoring, supervision, and enhanced child-parent communication can act as preventive measures towards substance abuse. Efficient parent training with family skill building, and structured family therapy can prevent illicit drug use.

According to a study by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Substance Abuse by Children, 100 percent of the children in conflict with the law were drug abusers, while 95.5 percent of them staying in child care institutions were on drugs and 93 percent of street children consumed narcotics. The study also states that 88 percent of the children consumed getting into drug abuse due to “peer pressure”.

India is one of the countries with the world’s highest young population, a factor that is expected to enhance future economic growth, But it is alarming to learn about even schoolboys sometimes eat small black balls of opium paste, with tea, in between classes. Synthetic drugs are popular among those too poor to afford heroin. The scale of the problem, if impossible to quantify precisely, is undeniably immense and worrisome.

Drug abuse is a complex phenomenon, which has various social, cultural, biological, geographical, historical and economic aspects. The disintegration of the old joint family system, absence of parental love and care in modern families where both parents are working, decline of old religious and moral values etc lead to a rise in the number of drug addicts who take drugs to escape hard realities of life. Drug abuse has caused a detrimental impact on the society. It has led to increase in the crime rate as addicts resort to crime to pay for their drugs.

With most drug users being in the productive age group of 18-35 years, the loss in terms of human potential is beyond description. The damage to the physical, psychological, moral and intellectual growth of the youth is very high. Adolescent drug abuse is one of the major areas of concern. As per studies it is estimated that, in India, by the time most boys reach high school, about 50 percent of them have tried at least one of the substance of abuse nature

The results of various surveys over the years suggest that use of drugs in India continues to grow unabated. Opioid use has increased from 0.7 per cent in the previous studies to a little higher than 2 per cent presently. In terms of magnitude the figures can be stated as changing from two million to more than 22 million.

Substance abuse can be addressed at the individual level, at the local level and at the cross-national level. Health and social problems associated with the use of and dependence on tobacco, alcohol and illicit substances can be prevented by greater awareness by individuals, families and societies to use appropriate public health actions.

June 26 is celebrated as International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking every year. It is an exercise undertaken by the world community to sensitize the people in general and the youth in particular, to the menace of drugs. India has braced itself to face the menace of drug trafficking both at the national and international levels. Several measures involving innovative changes in enforcement, legal and judicial systems have been brought into effect. The introduction of death penalty for drug-related offences has been a major deterrent towards misuse of drugs. Comprehensive strategy involving specific programmes to bring about an overall reduction in the use of drugs has been evolved by various government agencies and NGOs and is further supplemented by measures like education, counseling, treatment and rehabilitation programmes.