By Dr Naresh Purohit

New Delhi: Drug addiction is a complex and widespread health issue in India and across the world. However, despite increasing crackdowns on drug cartels in India by law enforcement agencies, drug use and cases reported under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 are on the rise.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported nearly 60,000 cases under the NDPS Act in 2020 – marking a two-fold increase in the last decade alone. This raises questions about the efficacy of current legal frameworks in deterring drug abuse and addiction, and the constraints of solely focusing on supply-side strategies.

The NDPS Act 1985 criminalises both ‘possession of drugs for personal use/consumption’ and ‘possession of drugs for trafficking’ thereby treating both consumers and peddlers of drugs as criminals. This fails to acknowledge drug addiction as a disease, requiring treatment and rehabilitation, rather than punitive action. Further, crime data suggests a disproportionate focus of law enforcement agencies on cases of personal consumption of drugs rather than the root issue of drug trafficking. What is even more concerning is that despite the increase in drug busts, treatment and rehabilitation in case of drug addiction continue to be a low priority.

Drug menace has been rampant in the country and considerable drug addiction among the youth has been noticed at a high rate in many states and the situation is very alarming. 

According to a  recent United Nation Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) report estimates the active and known number of drug addicts at an approximation of 70,000 all inclusive of women. This number however is much depressed than the actual active cases. Also 25.5 million people pan globe are suffering from the issues relating to drug addiction.

The prevalence of any degree of drug addiction in any society is a threat to one and all. This menace always has the potential of spiralling out, especially among the youth population and has the tendency of rooting deeper among various cohorts of the society.

Scientifically, drug addiction is categorised as a neurobiological disease. Once convinced to take any specific drug, it is a huge challenge to be cleansed out of it. Most of the drug addicts despise the processes of de-addiction. A big chunk of addicts die of causes related directly or indirectly to their addiction problems. 

Drug addiction is a disease more lethal than cancer. A growing number of people successfully beat the latter but the people afflicted by the former one are barely able to return to their pre-addictive happy and peaceful days. 

It is to be noted that once addicted to any substance, the nature of the person changes drastically and keeps on changing for enhanced levels of aggression. Once high on drugs, the behavior and other things seem to be in control. On the contrary, while craving for drugs the behavior becomes so uncontrollable that a person fears his own self and own instincts. 

Fellow peers, friends and the extended networking always make it possible to get hold of drugs that is needed. This easy accessibility makes the problem grave. Addicts steadily involve more and more people into the disease and end up impacting the larger society. 

Drug abuse is the illicit, non-medical use of several substances which includes alcohol, heroin, cocaine, opium, marijuana. 

The Constitution of India in this concern directs the state to secure the health for each individual and guides to preclude the utilisation of drugs which are harmful to health. It was a direct result of this promise that the NDPS Act, 1985 was passed, yet drug abuse has been rampant in the country.