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Contemporary Issues

26% of Indian Drug Users Require Urgent Assistance

Drugs usage India

“Drug addiction is a pervasive phenomenon in Indian society”, says a report. UN Office on Drugs and Crime and India’s Ministry of Social Justice jointly published the report. Millions of Indians depend on alcohol, cannabis, and opiates. 


Authorities had completed the report more than 18 months ago, only recently published because the results did not meet the expectations of the government.

Why the delay?

“They (the previous government) did not want to admit the magnitude of the problem indicated by the national household survey and that this too was happening within India. According to them, it is like something antithetical to Indian culture and embarrassing”, said a senior government official.

In the national household survey, the officials interviewed more than 40 000 men and boys aged between 12 to 60. While secondary studies looked at drug misuse among women and prison inmates, other reports showed the same in rural populations and border areas.

Alcohol, cannabis, opium, and heroin are the prevalent drugs misused in India, according to the report. Buprenorphine, propoxyphene, and heroin are the most commonly injected drugs in use.

Alarming drugs use in India
Picture Credit: Pixabay

Alarming Numbers

The survey estimated that in India, with a population of over a billion, 62.5 million people use alcohol. Whereas 8.75 million use cannabis, two million use opiates, and 0.6 million use sedatives or hypnotics. 17% to 26% of these people come under the category of dependent users. These are the ones who need urgent assistance. Almost 25% of users of opiates and cannabis may undergo treatment. While about 1 in 6 people who drink alcohol are likely to do so.

“That drug abuse is an exclusively urban phenomenon is a myth,” said Gary Lewis. Lewis is the South Asia regional representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. He added that Injecting drugs and high-risk behaviors are widespread in urban and rural areas.

Injecting drugs is a very common phenomenon throughout the country.  The report also underlined the same alarming figures from the rural parts of the country. The sharing of needles was common. Needles were shared by three injecting drug users, on average, as was unsafe sex.

 

Lacks Management


The average number of people undergoing therapy stands at about 0.5 million opiate users, 2.3 million cannabis users, and 10.5 million alcohol users. It indeed is a primary challenge for India at present, said Lewis. Less presence in treatment programs and long duration of drug use before people seek treatment remain key reasons for concern.


Currently, India does not have a management of national or local monitoring for drug misuse. This was the statement by Dr Rajat Ray. He is the head of the Centre for Behavioural Sciences at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, and the main author of the report. “Mere building of treatment centers will not be enough. And authorities need to motivate the millions of drug users in the community. They also need to make them informed, and encouraged to come forward to seek treatment,” he stated.

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