UNODC is cosponsor of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS - UNAIDS
Injecting drugs is the trend now in India
Disclaimer: The news story on this page is the copyright of the cited publication. This has been reproduced here for visitors to review, comment on and discuss. This is in keeping with the principle of 'fair dealing' or 'fair use'. Visitors may click on the publication name, in the news story, to visit the original article as it appears on the publication's website.
12 Jan 2007
India has a significant number of opiate users. Reports and surveys point to an increase in injecting drug use, particularly among young people.
Mr Gary Lewis is the representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Regional Office for South Asia. Gary Lewis spoke to Bala Chauhan of the Deccan Herald about the injecting drug scene in India and South Asia, and the role of UNODC in combating it. Excerpts from an interview:
How many people in South Asia are on 'injecting' pharmaceutical drugs? The misuse of pharmaceutical products is a growing problem and poses a challenge in many countries. Reports indicate that in some countries, abuse of such pharmaceuticals is second only to the abuse of cannabis. India is a large manufacturer of pharmaceuticals and accounts for about 10 per cent of the world's pharmaceutical production. A national survey conducted under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) and UNODC, published in 2004, indicated that alcohol, cannabis, heroin and opium as the common drugs of abuse. The most significant shift in drug use patterns in India is the move from smoking or chasing to the injecting of drugs. According to a survey conducted by UNODC, the injected drugs included heroin; spasmoproxyvon, dextropropoxyphene plus dicyclomine; buprenorphine alone or in combination with antihistamines (avil) and/or sedatives like diazepam (calmpose); injectable opiates like morphine, pethidine and pentazocine (fortwin); diazepam (calmpose) and promethazine (phenargan).
What's the drug scene like in India? India has a significant number of opiate users. Reports and surveys point to an increase in injecting drug use, particularly among young people. The steady growth of the Indian economy and increasing access to disposable incomes, influx of new cultural influences, and the breakdown of some traditional structures, are some reasons for drug consumption patterns. The 2006 World Drug Report published by UNODC, indicated the annual prevalence of abuse among the age group of 15-64 in India to be 3.2 per cent for cannabis, 0.4 per cent for opiates and 0.01 per cent for Ecstasy.
India also has the unique position of being the only authorised grower of illicit opium gum for export, which has placed upon it a heavy responsibility both towards the international community and its own people in terms of the potential diversion of illicit opium production into illicit channels.
Does UNODC plan to bring in tighter controls? India is a signatory to all the international conventions on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and has been active in the international and regional fora on this issue for many years. The amendments to the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act had already brought about significant flexibility in the penal structure of the country.
Afghanistan had a bumper opium crop in 2006. How much of it is going to be trafficked to India or via India? The greatest numbers of opiate abusers are found along the main drug trafficking routes emanating from the Golden Crescent and Triangle. India, being in the proximity of the two regions, has to be apprehensive about the drug production and trafficking, from these areas. Opium poppy cultivation in the Golden Triangle (Laos, Myanmar and Thailand), fell 29 per cent in 2006, bringing the total decline in the region since 1998 to 85 percent. There has been an alarming rise in the opium poppy cultivation and in the illegal manufacture of heroin in Afghanistan in 2006. UNODC's opium survey for Afghanistan indicated that opium cultivation in Afghanistan rose almost 60 per cent in 2006, largely due to a dramatic increase in the troubled southern provinces. The survey showed that the area under opium cultivation reached a record 165,000 hectares in 2006 compared with 104,000 in 2005.
According to UNODC estimates, the opium exports from Afghanistan increased by 68 percent in 2006, while morphine and heroin exports increased by 32 percent. About 80 percent of the opium is estimated to flow through Pakistan and Iran. From Pakistan, the drug moves further into India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. However, the new closer co-operation between India and Pakistan, will hopefully curbing the drug flow in the border areas of the two countries.
Another worrying trend is linked to the growth, in India, of a consumer base for more upmarket drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamines. Currently this is associated with the more affluent circles. There has also been reports of rise in cannabis production in Nepal and its movement into India. The insurgency in Nepal has also had an impact on the drug with reports of the rise in cannabis production in certain areas including the southern regions.
However, with the recently signed peace agreement and burgeoning political stability in Nepal, we hope the situation to improve.