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Three in Four Addicts in North India Start Abusing Drugs Before They're 20, New Study Finds

It also found that addicts spend up to Rs 2,000 on daily drug usage and pinpoints peer pressure, easy availability and unemployment as the main reasons behind the rampant addiction.
Shamani Joshi
Mumbai, IN
Three in four addicts get hooked to the high before turning 20 study finds
Photo for representational purposes only via Pixabay

If you’ve seen the popular and provocative Bollywood movie Udta Punjab, you already have an inkling of North India having a menacing drug problem, which has reportedly only got worse in this region. A new study published by the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) interviewed about 1,140 drug addicts and 1,566 households in 16 districts in the north Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), looking into the reasons responsible for this issue and taking into account hard drugs like heroin, chitta and opium banned under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.


The study, titled ‘Dynamics of Drug Addiction and Abuse in North-West India: Social, Economic and Political Implications’, found that 65 percent of addicts living in the above states became users between the ages of 15-20, which means three out of four addicts get hooked to the high even before they turn 21. 10 percent of them get into the habit of getting high before they turn 14, while another 18 percent falls in the age group of 21 to 25 years.

The study conducted by Professor Ranjit Singh Ghuman, Dr Gurinder Kaur and Dr Jatinder Singh for the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) also concludes that most of the drug users, at least 54 percent of them, came from rural areas, and that between 60 to 75 percent were from general castes and got into drugs because of rising unemployment levels.

The lead author of the study, Professor Ghuman, said the problem is more serious in Punjab followed by Haryana, HP, J&K and Rajasthan respectively. “The state is a transit route because of its proximity to the global “Golden Crescent” drug route (Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran) and has become a consumer base due to easy availability of drugs,” finds the 371-page report. According to him, addicts spend anywhere between Rs 200 to Rs 2,000 daily to do drugs, while their treatment ends up costing between Rs 5,000 to a lakh.

It observed that the problem of drug addiction at such a young age led to people wasting their most productive years, increased expenses on law and order and healthcare service, and generally was a disadvantage to the Punjab economy and society. Easy availability, peer pressure and unemployment are all major factors causing this.


It pinpoints peddlers as the main source of the steady drug supply, which includes heroin, opium, poppy husk and pharmaceutical drugs like tramadol and buprenorphine as the main narcotics taken by addicts. The study also found that an elaborate network of political leaders, drug smugglers and police is involved in the drug trade system and continue to get away with it.

According to its findings, 97 percent of the addicts are either illiterate or have never gone to college, 20 percent of them are illiterate, 27 percent studied up to class 8 and 50 percent have not studied beyond class 12. “Peer pressure, unemployment, consumption of intoxicants by elders in the family, easy availability of drugs, distribution of intoxicants by political parties during elections and patronage by political parties are responsible for drug addiction and abuse,” it said.

In order to curb the issue, the study recommends improving employment opportunities, cutting off the supply chain through severe punishments, and preventative measures including counselling and making addicts open up in public spaces to raise awareness along with door-to-door awareness campaigns.

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