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DRUGS IN THE INDIAN SOCIETY

Author: Surinder Kaur Chawla, 12th passout from BIS (N) Sr. Sec. Public School, Ludhiana


Drug Addiction is in simple words the consumption of narcotic elements which induce high levels of dopamine, increasing heart rate and adrenaline in the body resulting in poor judgments and improper coordination. It is very harmful as it affects the brain, causes paranoia, affects liver, lungs, causes behavioural changes like anxiety, speaking fast, being hyperactive, and unable to memorize, and it may lead towards death.


As per research, 75% of the individuals who suffered from any psychological trauma use drugs to forget the horrible moments that have been experienced. Some, due to their personal and professional reasons like lack of self-confidence, self-inspiration, motivation and excessive stress, others in a young age group due to lack of parental care and social and peer pressure choose the pathway for these narcotic drugs and alcohol.


India is a country with a long history of cannabis and opium use, extensively due to political reasons. The country's response to this illicit traffic flows along an extraordinary spectrum, from tradition to modernity, from widespread availability to firm implementation of laws, from production for medical usage to lack of medical access to opium containing drugs. The country's large chemical and pharmaceutical industries coarse for the major illicit manufacture of drugs for the non-medical use of prescription drugs. This is the reason for alarming rates of drug dependence, HIV-AIDS and viral hepatitis in various parts of the country. On one hand, the country imposes strict and harsh drug control laws with death penalties for certain drug offences, while on the other hand, the opium cultivating industries can find loopholes in the system again and again.


Although India has been a world producer of legal drugs for pharmaceutical markets, it also has an ancient tradition of using drugs in daily activities and ceremonial rituals. For example, cannabis (hemp) has been consumed for spiritual, medicinal and recreational purposes in India since the classical era. Charas, ganja and any mixture of these hemp plants are categorised under cannabis. Morphine, Poppy, Heroin etc are a part of the opium family. Other narcotic drugs are coca leaf, cocaine, codeine, allylprodine, methyl morphine, ethyl morphine, sufentanil, racemorphan, eticyclidine, dihydromorphine, fenethylline, hydrocodone, butalbital, metapone, nicotine, PEPAP, ketamin, and many more.


During the colonial period, the British organised opium into large scale commercial enterprise, consolidating and bringing cultivation of poppy and manufacture of opium (but not consumption) under greater control through The Opium Acts of 1857 and 1878. Because of the obligations undertaken by the Government of India by signing the Geneva Dangerous Drugs Convention, 1925, and the existing confusion of the laws governing the traffic in dangerous drugs in British India, it has been necessary to enact a Central Dangerous Drugs Act. Hence, The Dangerous Drugs Act was enacted in 1930 which extends to the whole of India. It redefines drugs like coca leaf, crude cocaine, etc., and the percentage of their preparation for medical usage. As per this, no one shall cultivate any coca plant or gather any portion of it or manufacture and process prepared opium and other drugs. It also provides control of the central government overproduction and supply of opium and other manufacturing drugs over land and sea frontier.


After that, The Drugs and Cosmetic Act 1940 were adopted to control the supply and usage of cannabis and opium over the country. However, The Dangerous Drugs Act continues to apply. But the provisions of these enhancements were found inadequate due to time and development in the field of illicit drug traffic and drug abuse at national and international levels. There is an immense need to consolidate and to amend existing laws because of the deficiencies in the working of the older ones. Also, the penalties under these laws were not sufficiently deterrent to meet the challenge of well-organized gangs of smugglers and no minimum punishment was described in the laws. These laws do not provide the power of investigation and there was increasing suffering due to the problem of transit traffic of drugs from neighbouring and western countries. Moreover, the country needs to follow international treaties and protocols. After the adoption of Indian Constitution in 1950, a bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 23 August 1985 which came into force on 14 November 1985 as The National Drugs And Psychotropic Substances Act 1985. As per this, it is illegal for a person to produce/ manufacture/ cultivate, possess, sell, purchase, transport, store and/or consume any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance. It is an act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to narcotic drugs to make stringent provisions for the control and regulations of operation relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The prohibition of these drugs become further entrenched by the Article 47 of the Constitution of India which states that 'The State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs that are injurious to health. Now the usage of drugs becomes criminal and punishable attempts. The NDPS Act was amended over time in 1989, 2001 and 2014. As per the first and the 1989 Amendments of the NDPS Act, very harsh provisions such as mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years imprisonment, restrictions or bail, the bar on suspension and commutation of sentences, forfeiture of property, trail by special courts and mandatory death sentences for certain repeat offenders due to combating drug trafficking and abuse. After the 1988 SAARC Convention, people caught with small amounts of drugs faced long prison sentences and hefty fines as per the amendment.


A regular criticism of harsh imprisonment led to 1998 NDPS Amendment Bill which was introduced in the Parliament and subsequently examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance and was finally adopted in 2001. This amendment grades the punishment based on the number of drugs involved, i.e., small, commercial or intermediate.


However, despite India being the world producer of Morphine, its people can't use the drug for medical reasons. The medical usage of Morphine was declined by 97% because of the harsh imprisonment and fines. Therefore, the government decides to permit some drugs named as 'Essential Narcotic Drugs' for medical usage only and hence amends the NDPS Act again in 2014 which came into force on May 1, 2014. This new category of 'Essential Narcotic Drugs' came which can be regulated by the Central Government throughout the country. This helps to widen the objective of the NDPS law from banning illicit drug usage to promoting medical and scientific use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances keeping the principle of balance between control and availability of narcotic drugs by including the terms "management" of drug dependence and "recognition and approval" of treatment centres and thus, allows the establishment of legally binding treatment standards and evidence-based medical interventions. However, it also enhanced the punishment for small quantity offences from a maximum of six months to one-year imprisonment and raises the rank of the officers authorised to conduct search and arrest license holders for alleged NDPS violations.


Despite having such stringent laws, over 2.6 crore people use opioids and about 60 lakh people suffer from opioid diseases with more than half the number residing in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. The most common drug used in the country is Heroin. Approximately 14.6% population which counts as 16 crores use alcohol. Punjab topped the list with about 75% of the youth being addicted to drugs and alcohol. To control these growing numbers, the NDPS Act supports treatment for people who use drugs both as an 'alternative' to and independent of criminal measures. The idea of 'Diversion From Prison To Treatment’ is enlightened by the National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse in May 1989 which is contributed by the Central Government, individual donors and sale of the property forfeited from drug trafficking. Treatment centres such as de-addiction centres, government hospitals, NGOs under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, psychiatric hospitals, nursing centres and some private de-addiction centres were opened and regulated by the individual state governments. Drug dependent people who express willingness to get treated can claim immunity from prosecution, provided the offence they are charged with is that of consumption or involves a minor quantity of drugs. In 2008, OST was introduced in Tihar Jail, Delhi in collaboration with National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which aims to provide Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) for drug consuming people.

All in all, the overall solution to stop drug trafficking and abuse is an individual effort. If we as a whole say NO to drugs, the problem of illicit drug usage will vanish in the upcoming years.

ENDNOTES

1) Opium Act 1878, www.latestlaws.com

2) Drug Policy of India, www.wikipedia.org

3) www.indiakanoon.org

4) Social and ethical issues of drug abuse, www.britannica.com

5) Article 13, 47, 243; Constitution Of India

6) Drug peddler gets Capital Punishment, Chandigarh, www.timesofindia.com

7) Essay on Drug Addiction, www.aplustopper.com

8) IDPC briefing paper on drug policy in India

9) NDPS Act, Article 2, 18, 50, etc.

10) Amendments in NDPS Actwww.wikipedia.com