Substance abuse in India: A Gloomy Road Ahead

The widespread substance abuse in India has emerged as a serious concern, especially in the younger generation. The changing cultural values, increasing economic stress, and other social issues are leading the youth into abuse and addiction. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), persistent or sporadic drug use that is unrelated to accepted medical practices is classified as substance abuse. The effective response to the world drug problem demands accountable and inclusive institutions of social services, criminal justice, and health to work collectively to provide integrated solutions. This approach has to be in line with the international drug control conventions, sustainable development goals, and human rights obligations. 

What constitutes drug abuse? 

It is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking that is compulsive, difficult to control. The individual continues the use of drugs addictively despite being aware of its harmful consequences.  

Initially, the drug intake of the individual is voluntary for most; however, repeated use leads to brain changes. It starts challenging the person’s self-control and starts interfering with their ability to resist the urge to take drugs. 

The brain changes are persistent, and people in recovery are at an increased risk of relapse even after years of abstinence.  

What is illicit drug trafficking?

When it comes to the availability of the drugs, the culprit is drug trafficking. It is a global illicit trade that involves the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and sale of substances that come under drug prohibition laws. 

Prevalence of Illicit Drug Use. A comparison of Global, Asian and National Estimates ( in %)

Drug CategoryWorld (15-64 years)Asia (15-64 years)India (10-75 years)
Cannabis3.91.91.2
Opioids.70.462.06
Cocaine.37.03.11
ATS.70.59.18

Source: socialjustice.nic.in

Drug Abuse in India

During the year 2018, an extensive survey was carried out by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Center (NDDTC) of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Under the directives of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, this comprehensive initiative was titled ‘National Survey on Extent and Patten of Substance Use in India’.

The report provides data estimates of the harmful use and dependence for the following substances:

  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis (Bhang and Charas / Ganja)
  • Opioids (Heroin, Opium and Pharma Opioids)
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS)
  • Sedatives
  • Inhalants and Hallucinogens

Survey Findings

Alcohol

In the age group of 10-75, nearly 14.6 percent (16 crore people) of people consume alcohol. It is prevalent 17 times more in men than in women. The predominantly consumed alcoholic beverages are country-made liquor, and Indian made foreign liquor. 

About 5.2 percent were found to be dependent on alcohol i.e., and every third alcohol user is suffering from alcohol-related problems. 

The states of Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, and Tripura showed the highest prevalence of alcohol use and related disorders. 

Cannabis

Nearly 3.1 crore individuals reported having consumed cannabis products in the past 12 months. About 2.2 crores used bhang, and 1.3 crore people consumed Ganja or Charas. 

Nearly .66 percent of Indians need immediate help for cannabis use problems. The use of bhang was found to be more popular than ganja/ charas. 

Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Chattisgarh, Delhi, and Sikkim had a relatively higher prevalence of cannabis, and the same states were found to be having a higher incidence of cannabis use disorders. 

Opioids

In India, heroin is the most common form of opioid (1.14%), then is Pharmaceutical opioids (.96%) and followed by opium (.52%). More people were found to be dependent on heroin than any other opioid. 

In India, more than half of the reported cases of opioid use disorders are from the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. 

Talking of the percentage of population affected by its use, the northeastern states of Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Manipur were the highest followed by Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi. 

Sedatives and Inhalants

The survey found that in the 10-75 age groups, nearly 1.08 percent of Indians are users of different forms of sedatives. It includes non-medical and non-prescription use sedatives. The states of Sikkim, Manipur, Nagaland, and Mizoram have the highest prevalence of sedatives. 

However, the top five states that have the largest populations using sedatives are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat.

Inhalants are having high use in children and adolescents (1.17%) than adults (.58%). In India, an estimated 4.6 lakh children and 18 lakh adults need help for their inhalant use. 

Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, and Maharashtra have the highest population of children needing help for inhalant use. 

Other Categories

It includes: cocaine (.10%), amphetamine-type stimulants (.18%) and hallucinogens (.12%). These are having the lowest prevalence of use in India. 

The survey also found that access to adequate treatment services for people affected by substance abuse is grossly inadequate in India. Only one in 38 people were able to avail treatment for his substance abuse problems, and only one in 180 people with alcohol dependence report getting hospitalized for treatment. 

The survey concluded that greater awareness and appropriate health actions were necessary to curb the menace of substance abuse in India.  

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