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International Overdose Awareness Day 2019: Drug Use Scenario In India

International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on 31 August every year. The day is set with the aim of spreading awareness on the issue of drug overdose and also to reduce the stigma surrounding drug-related deaths. The day acknowledges the friends and families of the deceased and addicts.

The central theme of the day is to shine a light on the aspect that the tragedy of overdose death is entirely preventable. International Overdose Awareness Day is observed by conducting various awareness programs and discussions in support groups which all aim for a single thought, reducing the prevalence of drugs in the country [1] [2] .


In India, International Overdose Awareness Day 2019 is observed in various locations such as Punjab, Delhi, Imphal and Pune. Out of these, the most number of awareness camps and seminars are conducted in Punjab, the most drug-affected state in the country.

Drug Use In India Is On A Hike

The country is slipping in and out of consciousness with the rampant hike in the number of people addicted to drugs. Recent reports and studies reveal the growing problem of drug addiction in India, especially among the younger generation. According to reports, almost 74 per cent of Indian families has one adult member addicted to drugs [3] .


Likewise, a survey conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had pointed out that around 73.2 million people in India are drugs users. Out the 73.2 million, 8.7 million are cannabis users, 2 million of opiates and various other illicit drugs [4] .

Drug addiction is rampant among the rural population, with heroin being the most commonly used substance followed by pharmaceutical opioids. And states like Punjab and Sikkim have the most number of drug users, which is higher than the national average.

More than 3 per cent of the Indian population uses cannabis products and studies point out that only one in 20 drug addicts get treatment at a hospital.

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The states with the highest prevalence of drug abuse are Sikkim, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. However, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat are the top five states that home drug users [5] [6] .

As per the findings of the National survey on the Extent, Patterns and Trends of Drug abuse in India, the average age of substance use initiation was as early as 10-11 years of age. On considering the issue on the gender perspective, it can be ascertained that Indian women, especially from the rural areas are increasingly addicted to drug use.

It was stated in a UN study that, "women are dually affected by substances, both as partners of men using substances and their use. Since, more often than not, women using substances are also partners of users they have a double disadvantage" [7] .

India's Youth Is High On Drugs!

An unbelievably high number of teenagers and youngsters in India are increasingly addicted to drugs. In Punjab, a state that is tangled in the war against drugs, nearly 75% of its youth are addicted to drugs. That is, 3 in 4 children are drug addicts in the country [8] .

Following the path of Punjab, Mumbai and Hyderabad to have become top names in the field of drug abuse. Children and teenagers in the country tend to experiment with drugs, mainly due to the following reasons [9] :

  • Boredom
  • Peer pressure
  • Depression
  • Curiosity
  • Stress
  • Low self-esteem

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Apart from these, one of the main causes of drug addiction at a very young age in rural India is because the parents in the family can influence the children. Various surveys and reports have pointed out the influence parents can have on children when it comes to drug dependency.

Fixing The Problem

The Government has taken several policies and other initiatives to deal with drug problems in the country [10] [11] .

  • In 2017, the government approved new Reward Guidelines with the increased quantum of reward for interdiction or seizure of different illicit drugs.
  • The Narcotics Control Bureau has been provided funds for developing a new software i.e. Seizure Information Management System (SIMS) which will aid in the creation of a complete online database consisting of drug offences and offenders.
  • The government has constituted a fund called "National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse" to meet the expenditure incurred in connection with combating illicit traffic in Narcotic Drugs; rehabilitating addicts, and educating the public against drug abuse, etc.
  • The government is also conducting National Drug Abuse Survey to measure trends of drug abuse in India through the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment with the help of the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre of AIIMS.
  • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has drafted the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2023) for addressing the problem of drug and substance abuse in the country.

Apart from these, as human beings, each one of us can adopt measures that could help our near and dear ones from the clutches of drug abuse [12] .

  • Spread awareness on the negatives of drug use
  • Establish rules and consequences
  • Provide support
  • Set a good example
  • Know your children's friends
  • Focus on the behaviour, not the person
View Article References  
  1. [1]   Solomon, S. S., Sulkowski, M. S., Amrose, P., Srikrishnan, A. K., McFall, A. M., Ramasamy, B., ... & Mehta, S. H. (2018). Directly observed therapy of sofosbuvir/ribavirin+/− peginterferon with minimal monitoring for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C in people with a history of drug use in Chennai, India (C‐DOT). Journal of viral hepatitis, 25(1), 37-46.
  2. [2]   Perkins, J. M., Lee, H. Y., Lee, J. K., Heo, J., Krishna, A., Choi, S., ... & Subramanian, S. V. (2016). Widowhood and alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use among older adults in India. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 73(4), 666-674.
  3. [3]   Hser, Y. I., Liang, D., Lan, Y. C., Vicknasingam, B. K., & Chakrabarti, A. (2016). Drug abuse, HIV, and HCV in Asian countries. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, 11(3), 383-393.
  4. [4]   Azmi, N. I., & Abbas, S. M. (2018). Bibliometric Study of Publications on Drug Abuse in India From 2001 to 2016. Library of Progress-Library Science, Information Technology & Computer, 38(1).
  5. [5]   Ghulam, R., Verma, K., Sharma, P., Razdan, M., & Razdan, R. A. (2016). Drug abuse in slum population. Indian journal of psychiatry, 58(1), 83.
  6. [6]   Kumar, S., Goyal, A., & Gupta, Y. K. (2016). Abuse of topical corticosteroids in India: Concerns and the way forward. Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, 7(1), 1.
  7. [7]   Kaur, K. (2017). Drug abuse! Problem is intense in Punjab, India. Human Biology Review.
  8. [8]   Dayal, P., & Balhara, Y. P. S. (2016). Profile of female patients seeking in-patient treatment for prescription opioid abuse from a tertiary care drug dependence treatment centre from India. The Indian journal of medical research, 143(1), 95.
  9. [9]   Dadwani, R. S., & Thomas, T. (2017). Prevalence of substance abuse: a community based study. International Journal Of Community Medicine And Public Health, 3(3), 647-650.
  10. [10]   InsightIAS. (2019, February 19). ‘PREVALENCE AND EXTENT OF SUBSTANCE USE IN INDIA’- SURVEY. Retrieved from\
  11. [11]   Arora, A., Kannan, S., Gowri, S., Choudhary, S., Sudarasanan, S., & Khosla, P. P. (2016). Substance abuse amongst the medical graduate students in a developing country. The Indian journal of medical research, 143(1), 101.
  12. [12]   Pandey, S. K., Datta, D., Dutta, S., Verma, Y., & Chakrabarti, A. (2015). Socioeconomic characteristics of alcohol and other substance users, seeking treatment in Sikkim, North East India. Journal of pharmacy & bioallied sciences, 7(2), 151.

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