Not 'Udta Punjab': 76% drug users are youth, says official report that govt killed

Now, a Punjab-based NGO named ‘Human Rights Awareness Association’ has moved the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court order directing the Censor Board to clear Udta Punjab with only one cut.  The NGO has alleged that the film, based on drug abuse in Punjab, shows the state in poor light. But then the state of affairs — as it exists in Punjab today – cannot paint a rosy picture at all; though efforts can be made to stall any attempt to highlight the reality.

In 2015, the Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM), in collaboration with National Drugs Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of AIIMS, conducted a survey between February and April and found that 230,000 people in the state were drug users. The survey was done for Government of India's Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and was supported by Department of health, of Punjab government. The report titled ‘Punjab Opioid Dependence Survey’ (PODS) was submitted to the government sometime in “middle of 2015” and a brief summary of the report was uploaded on the official website of Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Punjab.

 Not Udta Punjab: 76% drug users are youth, says official report that govt killed

Representational image. Reuters

The report made disturbing revelations about the drug problem in the state. But the full report that runs into 26 pages was never made public. Rather, according to a PTI report published on 22 January this year, "the Union government objected to the Punjab government releasing the survey on opioid-dependent population in the state and asked it to immediately remove it from its website as the report has not been officially accepted by it."

A source who had accessed the report spoke to Firstpost on the condition of anonymity and shared the details of the entire report, and tried to explain why it was extremely important in designing any policy to counter drug menace in the state.

The source explains, "If you extrapolate the number of opioid-dependent people that the report projects, which is 2.3 lakh persons, you will come across some very disturbing trends. 76 percent of the total users are in the age group of 18-35. That makes for around 1,74, 800 male users in age group 18-35. If you project it for the entire state then nearly 15 out of 100 male in the age group 18-35 take opioid and 4 out of 100 are addicted to it. This is most productive age group and 15 percent of it is uses drugs and 4 percent are addicted to it, which is devastating for any nation."

The report adds, "Out of this 8 percent use heroin and other 2 use ‘injecting pharmaceutical opioid’. These both are very addictive drugs and can lead to dependence in very short time. Only 5 percent use low potential drugs."

Another revelation made in the report was that the number of people who were arrested and sent to jail under narcotics law accepted the fact that they used drugs in jails too. “It was found that more than 90 percent of those sent to jail admitted having used drugs in jail. So the strategy of arresting and putting the drug users into jail has massively failed as they continue to use drugs even in prisons. Police and administration in Punjab has to ensure that the easy availability of drugs is curbed," said the source.

“A large majority of opioid-dependent individuals are perceived to have physical / social / psychological complications. Though only a minority report having been to jail, those who had experienced a jail-term, reported that they continued to use drugs while inside the jail”, the report states.

About the treatment to drug addicts, the source said, “Less than 10 percent of people who are opioid dependent get opioid substitution treatment, which is perhaps the most effective treatment for opioid dependence. Opioid substitution treatment involves replacing an illegal opioid, such as heroin with that of methadone or buprenorphine, and the drug is given under medical supervision. While there are many de-addiction centres in Punjab, they are hardly focusing on this treatment”.

Highlighting another problem the source who accessed the report said, “Majority of the de-addiction centres providing substitution treatment are not run by state government. Rather they are governed by central government through National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). NACO just focuses on injecting drug users and not all opioid users. So those dependent on doda, phukki and other non-injecting drugs cannot get treatment here. The fact that only 30 percent addicts are injecting drug users, a huge majority cannot avail the treatment”.

Explaining the extent of the problem, the source told that during the course of research an online survey was done where response from psychiatrists working all over the Punjab was sought. The response stressed that majority of patients coming to psychiatrists in Punjab were suffering from drug addiction problems. Among addictions too, over half of the cases were linked to opioid-related disorders.

“Almost one third of clientele of the surveyed mental health professionals suffer from opioid-related problems; the rest include the other mental health and drug abuse problems. Among all the patients seeking treatment for opioid dependence, majority use heroin (over 50 percent)”, the report stated.

During the survey the team found that how in many cases people used doda and phukki for years without much problem. But then gradually these opioids were destroyed and were replaced by heroin and other synthetic drugs. Those addicted to doda and phukki gradually shifted to heroin and other synthetic drugs. “A distinct shift in the pattern of drug use is visible in the state whereby heroin emerges as the most common opioid used by opioid-dependent people," the report states.

When asked as to why the entire report was not made public and whether any serious deliberations took place following the submission of the report, the source said, “Instead of making the report public early this year, Punjab government was asked to remove the brief report from the website. It is a very common approach of the government. Surveys are conducted but whether they will be taken seriously or not depends on its finding; whether the findings suits the government or not and I feel same happened with this report too."

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Updated Date: Jun 16, 2016 19:46:44 IST