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Parliamentary Committee report raises alarm about Punjab’s drug problem, state now has a whopping 66 lakh addicts

Punjab has 7 lakh juvenile drug users in addition to 66 lakh adults. (IANS)

In what has rattled the Punjab health authorities and the government, the state has reported a whooping around 7 lakh Juvenile drug users in addition to 66 lakh adults. The startling figures were put up by a special parliamentary committee on Lok Sabha that expressed concerns over the high numbers in state with a population of around 3 crores.

Titled “Drug abuse among young persons: Problems and solutions”, the report highlights that 21.36 lakh people are consuming different types of opioids, 30.68 lakh are regular Cannabis users, 9.93 lakh are on sedatives, 1.87 on inhalants and 1.5 lakh on cocaine and 1.36 on stimulants. According to the report, as many as 6.97 lakh children aged between 10 to 17 years are hooked on drugs in Punjab. Of these, 18,100 children are consuming cocaine. Around 3.43 lakh children are taking opioid drugs that include heroin. The report further revealed that 72,000 children are taking ‘inhalants’ in Punjab, 1.43 lakh on cannabis and 93000 on sedatives.

“These are worrisome figure and we need to prioritise juvenile users immediately. We just have one centre for female and juvenile addicts in Punjab that’s in Kapurthala where very few women or boys visit. Juvenile de-addiction needs to be dealt with a multi-pronged policy and steps. We need to wean them off addictions while young”, Dr. Sandeep Bhola, Deputy Medical Commissioner & Consultant Psychiatrist, Punjab government and Member World Federation against Drugs told India Narrative.

It may be noted that state has exhibited an increase in opioids and cannabis use and ranks second in country in the same.

The AAP government has ever since day one cited drug menace in Punjab as its biggest challenge owing to unprecedented cross border narco-terrorism through drones. Even Punjab Governor Banwari Lal Purohit has time and again expressed concern over easy availability of drugs even to school children.

“There are 2.62 lakh addicts in government-run centers and 6.12 lakh addicts in privately-run centers. Sadly the cure rate of the addicts is negligible – 1.5% in case of government run de-addiction centers and 0.04% in privately run centres. Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has categorically said that those addicted to drugs should not be sent to jail but given treatment. We are planning to set mohalla and village level committees to bring back the addicts in the mainstream,” says health minister Dr. Balbir Singh.

According to state records Punjab police from July 5, 2022 to July 7, 2023 registered 12,218 FIRs under the NDPS Act in the last one year. Punjab is third in terms of NDPS cases registered with Uttar Pradesh taking the lead followed by Maharashtra that falls in second place.

AAP’s Punjab spokesperson Malvinder Kang while speaking to India Narrative said, “Drugs is a deep rooted issue inherited by our government from previous ones who either ignored it or encouraged drug use. We are working on various fronts on this. Right from clamping supply chains, battling narco-terrorism and providing world class de-addiction and health facilities we are doing all it takes. It will take time but we will pull Punjab put of menace.”

The committee has further highlighted list of key states that need action in drug abuse and these include Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, NCT of Delhi, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

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