Drug abuse back in the spotlight in India; 50% risen in drug-related suicides in 5 years

Although the use of various psychoactive substances such as alcohol, cannabis and opioids has been observed in India for centuries, the spotlight is back on the menace drug addiction with the arrest of several Bollywood celebrities following the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who committed suicide earlier this year.

The number of suicides related to drug abuse and alcohol addiction has witnessed an alarming rise of over 50 per cent during the last five years in India, where 7,860 people ended their lives due to depression caused by substance abuse in 2019. The data by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that out of the total 7,860 deaths recorded, 7,719 were male, 140 were female, and one was a transgender.

However, the exact dimension of the extent and pattern of psychoactive substance use and the problems associated with it are not well documented. Therefore, in the absence of reliable and detailed information about the drug use problem in the country, it has been a challenge to formulate and implement effective policies and programmes to address drug use.

In order to get a broader picture of the problem, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India (GoI), commissioned a National Survey on Extent and Pattern for Substance Use in India.

The survey has revealed findings that have set alarm bells ringing in different local governments, particularly located in north and north-east states and Union Territories (UTs).

About 2.1 per cent of the country’s population (2.26 crore individuals) use opioids which includes Opium (or its variants like poppy husk known as doda/phukki), Heroin (or its impure form – smack or brown sugar) and avariety of pharmaceutical opioids. Nationally, the most common opioid used is Heroin (1.14 per cent) followed by pharmaceutical opioids (0.96 per cent) and Opium (0.52 per cent). Five northern states — including Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and J&K — top the list of Opoids addicts which ranges from 10 per cent to about 5 per cent of their total population. Punjab with 9.69 per cent of its population is at number one, followed by Haryana with 8.68. Delhi is at number three with 7.79 per cent population addicted to Opiods while Himachal Pradesh is at number four with 5.66 er cent. Jammu and Kashmir with other six lakh population addicted to the drug stand at number five.


The figures further reveal that the use of Opoids in India is higher than the Global and Asian average. Around 2.06 per cent of Indian population between the age group of 10 and 70 years consume the drug. The use of other drugs, including Cannabis, Cocaine and ATS, is also on the higher side. World Health Organization (WHO) has reports that about half of the global population aged more than 15 years is current user of alcohol. In comparison, India has a much lower prevalence of alcohol use, as reported in this survey. However, a substantial number of Indians (5.2 per cent) use alcohol in a harmful / dependent pattern, which is almost equal to the global estimates (5.1 per cent according to WHO, 2018). This means that few people in India use alcohol, but most of them are affected by harmful use or dependence on alcohol.

The below graph will give the readers a fair idea of the use of illicit drugs in India:

Meanwhile, there are about 9 lakh Indians, including one lakh in Uttar Pradesh, who inject drugs directly into their bodies, increasing the risk of transmission of other diseases – STD, AIDS etc – though needles. Opioid group of drugs are predominantly injected by PWID (heroin–46 per cent and pharmaceutical opioids – 46 per cent). A substantial proportion of PWID report risky injecting practices. High numbers of PWID are estimated in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, AndhraPradesh,Telangana,Haryana, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

About 2.8 per cent of the population (3.1 crore individuals) reports having used any cannabis product with in the previous year. The use of cannabis was further differentiated between thelegalformofcannabis (bhang)andotherillegal cannabis products (ganja and charas). Use of these cannabis products was observed to be about 2 per cent (approximately 2.2 crore persons) for bhang and about 1.2 per cent (approximately 1.3 crore persons) for illegal cannabis products, ganja and charas. States with the highest prevalence of cannabis use are Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Sikkim, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.

About 1.08 per cent of Indian between the age group of 10 and 75 year (approximately 1.18 crore people) are current users of sedatives (non-medical,non-prescriptionuse). Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat are the top five states which house the largest populations of people using sedatives. About 0.20 per cent of Indians need help for their sedative use problems.

At the national level, an estimated 4.6 lakh children and 18 lakh adults need help for their inhalant use (harmful use / dependence). In terms of absolute numbers, states with high population of children needing help for inhalantuseare: Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi and Haryana.

The number of people dependent on cocaine, ATS and Hallucinogens is extremely small in comparison to the size of country’s population.

Meanwhile, with drug addiction on the rise in the country, the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Unified Martial Arts (JKAUMA) has launched ‘Drugs Out, Sports In’ initiative to fight drug addiction by promoting healthy living through Martial arts. In this endeavor, JKAUMA has been organizing seminars in different private schools and colleges to spread awareness among students about the ill effects of drug addiction and how to resist and overcome this menace.

One of the major problems in drug de-addiction is a relapse because the victims are unable to locate any constructive platform which can engage them positively. JKAUMA intends to fill that vacuum by bringing in martial arts, which not only focuses on physical development but strengthening the mental facilities of a person.

The Academy aims to enrich an individual’s education through practice (both physical and spiritual) and competitions, as well as channelize their energy for constructive purposes and stop them from derailing from the mainstream.

Through its seminars, the academy spreads awareness among students about the ill effects of drug addiction and how to resist and overcome this menace. During the seminars at schools and colleges, health living is promoted through martial arts as a recent study conducted in a Drug De-addiction Centre in Srinagar found that over two-thirds of patients in the study had started substance abuse in the age group of 11-20 years.

The Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Unified Martial Arts has also launched an initiative to promote ‘Self-defence among girls and women’ by organizing seminars in schools and colleges in the valley. Self-defence, especially for women and girls, is of utmost importance in the kind of the world we live in today. Women usually referred to as the weaker sex, are considered easier targets hence self-defense for women has become a necessity more than ever.

Leave a Reply