Drug Abuse in India: An Overview


Recently, the Punjab Cabinet has decided to recommend the death penalty for drug traffickers.

Prevalence of Drug Abuse in India:

  • Number of drug related crimes under the , Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act has been on a rise

  • According to NCRB Report 2016, a total 350862 Kg drugs were seized during 2016. Ganja Methaqualone, Ephedrine/Pseudo Ephedrine, Hashish and Heroin accounted for maximum. Seizures give an idea about popularity of various drugs. Apart from these, the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs is also on a rise
  • As of 2016, among all states and Union Territories, Punjab has the highest incidence rate (20.2 per lakh population) for cases under the NDPS Act.
  • Maharashtra accounts for highest percentage (40%) of all NDPS cases in India. It is followed by Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Punjab

Causes of Drug Abuse in India:

  1. Geographical Location:
  • A major factor making India vulnerable to drug trafficking and consequent drug abuse is its geographical location- it lies in close proximity to the major opium producing regions of South West and South East Asia known as the ‘Golden Crescent’ and the ‘Golden Triangle’, respectively. It makes India vulnerable to transit, trafficking and consumption of Opium derivatives in various forms along the known trafficking routes.
  • Further cannabis (ganja) also grows unaided in many parts of the country. It has also been reported that it is cultivated in hilly terrains in some parts of the country

  1. Easy Availability:
  • Cheap and easy availability due to cross-border smuggling of drugs is a major reason for increasing drug abuse in India.
  • For example, according to UNODC World Drug Report 2016, the retail prices of cannabis is the lowest in India
  1. Risk factors contributing to drug abuse:
  • Unstable home environment; poor relationship with family members
  • Behavioural problems combined with poor parenting
  • Depression, stress
  • Peer pressure: Use and availability of drugs from peers
  1. Role of media:
  • Glorification of drug abuse in media such as in series and movies- Popular media romanticizing drug use/abuse largely influences adolescents
  1. Poor implementation of the NDPS Act and law and order

Impact of Drug Abuse:

Health Impacts:

  • Damage to organs, such as the heart, brain, and liver
  • Diseases, such as heart disease, HIV, and cancer
  • Development of mental illnesses, suicides
  • Permanent changes to hormonal or nervous systems


  • Family
    • Family disputes; mental trauma for family members
    • Domestic violence- adverse effect on women and children
  • Societal
    • Loss of reputation, social stigma, isolation
    • Lack of Societal acceptance after rehabilitation


  • Lack of focus on task at hand leading to poor performance
  • Absenteeism, loss of job


  • Incrementally high expenditure on drugs
  • Increasing Debts


  • Resorting to monetary crimes to pay for drugs
  • Increasing Incidences of teasing, group clashes, assault and impulsive murders

Constitutional, Legal Provisions and International agreements:

  • According to Article 47, state is duty bound to prevent the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs except the consumption of it for medicinal purposes which are not injurious to health
  • India is signatory to three UN Conventions regarding drugs:
  1. Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961,
  2. Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971,
  3. Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988

Legal Provisions:

NDPS Act, 1985:

  • The Act restricts cultivation, production, sale, purchase, possession, use, consumption, import, and export of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances
  • NDPS Act is a punitive and punishing statute. Punishment is based on the substance and its quantity found. Death penalty or 30 years of imprisonment for repeated offence of drug trafficking
  • It also contains a regulatory framework.
  • The Act gives authority to the Central and the State government to frame rules in relation to drug-use activities.
  • The regulatory framework also paves a way for supply of opium, to registered users, for medicative purposes.
  • The act also provides for rehabilitation. It further calls for national fund for controlling drug abuse


  1. NDPS criminalizes drug use even though there is no such requirement under international conventions. People who are addicted to drugs need medical care and not jail.
  2. Thin spread of resources which hinder rehabilitation measures
  3. Rehabilitation:
  • De-addiction centres are not fully equipped and health workers are not properly trained. Often the addicts are treated as prisoners. According to a recent Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) Report, inmates are being ill-treated, subjected to sexual and physical torture, asked to perform sexual favours, and are not allowed to contact their families
  • Post rehabilitation acceptance in the society is also a major issue.
  1. Data: Reliability and accuracy of data provided by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and Narcotics Control bureau is also a major issue

Way Forward:

  1. Awareness and Prevention:
  • Primary Prevention envisages preventing non-users from starting drug use. It includes raising awareness on drug related harm, specially health and social effects
  • Since Children and young adults are most vulnerable to drug abuse measures should be taken to aware children on myths surrounding alcohol and other drug use which leads to the glamorization of these substances
  • Mass media should play an important role in spreading awareness about menace of drug abuse and not glorifying drug abuse

For example:

  • In Sri Lanka, a drug abuse preventive unit has been established in the Ministry of Education. The Ministry runs programmes targeting both children and teachers.
  1. The Anti-Narcotic Squads and Drug Enforcement Agencies should be more vigilant in controlling drug trafficking
  2. There should be more counselling and rehabilitation centres. Further, these centres should be equipped with trained health workers to ensure sustained de-addiction of addicts.
  3. The government should apply harm reduction principles to drug policy formulation. India can consider experiences from European and Latin American countries while formulating and implementing legislation to stop drug abuse. In Europe and Latin American countries, it was found that non-punitive measures improved health and well being of drug addicts.
  4. Example: I n Portugal, overdose and drug related HIV infections got reduced after the decriminalisation of drug use.
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