Drug abuse is a problem scaling on a global level that has affected almost every country. The extent and characteristics of this issue differ on a geographical basis. Even India has fallen into this vicious circle and the numbers of drug addicts are only increasing with each passing day. In both, Punjab and Haryana, drug addiction has been a major political issue. 18 out of 22 districts in Punjab are identified by the Narcotics Control Bureau and 10 out of 22 districts of Haryana also figure in the national list of districts that are most affected by substance abuse. This issue has caught in trap the youth of Punjab very badly. The number of young drug addicts has gone up considerably. Among the consumers of such substances, around 4 million were men and approximately 0.1 million were women.
Licit substances include alcohol and tobacco, whereas illicit substances include opioids, cannabinoids, inhalants, stimulants and sedatives. Opioids like heroin, smack, crude opium, poppy husk were the most commonly consumed illicit drugs in Punjab. In the past, many reports have been indicating towards this prominent problem of drug dependence in the state. Although, there had not been any credible sources to find the exact and reliable estimates of number of opioid dependent people in Punjab, such information was necessary in order to develop evidence-informed policies and programmes in Punjab. Henceforth, various studies were commissioned to dig out such details. One amongst these was commissioned by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSIE), Government of India which aimed at determining the number of opioid dependent people in the state. Besides this, the Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM) along with a team of researchers from National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), AIIMS, New Delhi in collaboration with Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Punjab conducted the Punjab Opioid Dependence Survey (PODS).[i]
The fence of the India – Pakistan Border is visible from the Dhanoa Kalan village of Punjab. The farmers working near the border, sometimes, find packets of drugs in their fields. As per investigation, an Indian intelligence officer stated that, the farmers take these packets to their homes. After entering the Indian territory these packets are picked up by couriers, who transports them further to the distributors in different cities. This entire process is carried out confidentially. The Punjab police and security agencies have also been accused of helping in smuggling these drugs.[ii] A Bollywood film “Udta Punjab” was also made to address the problem of substance abuse in the state of Punjab which proved to be helpful in spreading awareness amongst people about the prevalence of such a problem in India. The film has brilliantly showcased the mental and physical state of the youth getting affected by the use of such drugs and the effect of these drugs is severe and painful.
The data was collected from 3620 opioid dependent individuals from 10 districts. It was found that around 76 per cent opioid dependent individuals in Punjab are between 18 to 35 years of age. Around 99 per cent of these individuals are male and 54 per cent of them are married. 89 per cent of the above category is literate and have some formal education and degree. Most commonly used opioids amongst these substance users was found to be Heroin (53 per cent) followed by opium, doda and phukki (33 per cent). These people mainly consumed it by injecting these drugs into their bodies. According to the study, there were many reasons that were reported for starting the use of these opioid drugs but the most heard was “peer pressure”. However, 80 per cent of these people have even tried to give up drug consumption but a large proportion of these people could get any help or treatment. The report also mentioned some requirements that could help in dealing with this problem like, making some effective short-term and long-term strategies, inter-sectoral coordination among various stakeholders, emphasizing on helping people who are affected by this problem rather than punishing them for using drugs. [iii]
272 districts, which are heavily affected by drug abuse have been identified by the Centre, who is making efforts to implement an action plan to achieve the goal of ‘Nasha Mukt Bharat’ (addiction-free India) especially amongst youngsters in colleges and universities. The plan came into existence after Union home minister Amit Shah had assured Amarinder Singh, the Chief Minister of Punjab that this plan would tackle the issue at a national level. It is now estimated that around 8,50,000 people inject drugs, about 4,60,000 children and 1.8 million adults need inhalant dependence, while 7.7 million Indians require help for opioid dependence. The use of opioids in India is thrice the global average, as per 2019 report of AIIMS. Also, the treatment for addicts who are willing to quit shows a big gap as they do not receive any treatment and if any provided, is only provided at government de-addiction centres. Punjab’s health minister Brahm Mohindra told the BBC his government had reduced the inflow of drugs into the state. But he could not explain why drugs had claimed more lives in 2018 than in previous years. Data from various government departments shows that the problem seems to have got worse in recent years. According to police records, 303 kg of heroin was seized from the beginning of 2018 until 15 October. Only 191kg of heroin was seized from January to December 2017.[iv]
A special emphasis is laid on schools and colleges owing to the increasing dependency of such drugs amongst adolescents, which is much higher than the usage amongst adults in the state. Apart from the celebrity backed ‘Say No to Drugs’ campaign, other national level campaigns are planned across various schools and higher education campuses to educate youngsters about the issue. It is aimed that a wider range of youngsters would be targeted and covered in these plans to curtail any further drug abuse among the youth of the nation[v].
Constitutional and Legal Provisions-
Article 47 (DPSP) of the Constitution of India states, “……… the State shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.”
This Directive Principle directs the State to raise the standard of living in order to improve public health. This can be done by increasing the nutrition level and prohibiting the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs except for medicinal purposes.
- India is a signatory to the following:
- The Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961
- The Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971
- The Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.
Being a signatory to the above-mentioned conventions, India is legally bound at an international level to stop drug abuse within its territory.
- Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985: the NDPS prohibits the manufacturing, production, trade, use, etc. of narcotic drugs except for medical or scientific purposes.
- Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (MSJE): It deals with matters that are related with Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse. A Scheme for Prohibition and Drug Abuse Prevention since the year 1985-86 has also been launched by MSJE.
- The Ministry of Health, runs several drug de-addiction centres in the Government hospitals across the country.
- The State Governments has also been working on the issue. It has its own Health Departments and Social Welfare Departments, that have their own Drug Demand Reduction strategies. [vi]
The Punjab Plan:
The use of drugs has become rampant in Punjab. This has caused a heavy loss to life, property and the morals of the society degraded. The issue can turn into a more serious problem if not put into place within a certain amount of time. The main object of this plan is to devise a structural model of de-addiction service in the state, the “Pyramid Model” or “Punjab Model”. This model is basically concerned with identification, treatment and aftercare of such drug addicts/ substance users.
Punjab alone accounts for over one-fifth of the total recoveries of heroin in India. The traffickers have in their radars the cities of Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Firozpur, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Patiala as well as Chandigarh for smuggling such drugs.
Structure of the model:
- Supply Reduction: By supply reduction, model aims to stop or minimize the production, manufacture and distribution of illicit drugs (as defined above).
- Demand Reduction: Demand reduction can be done by educating and persuading potential users to who seek a reduction of desire to obtain and use illegal drugs and providing treatments to those who require.
- Harm Reduction: This focuses directly on reducing the harm resulting from the use of alcohol and other harmful drugs, at both levels i.e. at individual level as well as community level by implementing effective policies and starting programs.
The Indian Public Health Standard (IPHS) guidelines were formulated under the National Rural Health Mission that specify the criteria, services and infrastructure at each level provided in the hospitals. Tobacco cessation services, de-addiction centers, and psychiatric services are also to be given in some hospitals. The functions of the model de-addiction centers would be-
- To provide the patients with safe and effective de-addiction services not only at primary and secondary levels of care but also from other sources like self, family, NGOs, social and spiritual organizations, etc.
- To act as training centers in order to provide training for medical and non-medical officers working at both, primary and secondary levels of healthcare.
- To collect data on drug abuse from healthcare institutions and provide a Drug Abuse Monitoring System (DAMS) to keep a check on the patterns of substance abuse in the state.
- To provide a two-way communication between the public and the administrative machinery in order to achieve the set goals.[vii]
The Punjab Model can prove to be fruitful if launched effectively. With the help of various studies and reports, we can now say that the situation of Punjab has not been very good as far as the problem of Substance Abuse is concerned. The youngsters have been affected the most and this is not good not only for these young lives but also for the country as a whole. The usage of drug has hampered the lives of many, making them miserable. But with the support of the government, Punjab is now, the first to present and pursue state level de-addiction policies and programs that can help in overpowering the effect of this menace.