As the controversy over rages on ‘Udta Punjab’, putting the spotlight on Punjab’s drug menace, a study by AIIMS Delhi has found that 1.2% of the adult population in the state is hooked on to opioid drugs. This is a startling revelation, because the global average for all drug dependants was 0.2% in 2010, as per an experts’ review published in ‘Addiction’, a highly reputed journal in the field.
The study – ‘Punjab opioid dependence survey: Estimation of the size of opioid dependent population in Punjab’ – says that in a population of nearly 1.9 crore adults, there are 2.32 lakh opioid dependants. “This implies that out of 1.9 crore, 1.2% of the adult population is hooked to only opioids,” says principal investigator of the study, Dr Atul Ambekar. The researcher feels the state is sitting on an ‘epidemic’ and the figures are very dangerous. “We had taken the age groups between 18 and 35, and 99% of the opioid users were male.” According to a study in 2001, the national average for all drug dependants is 0.7%. The AIIMS study was conducted between February and April 2015. Data was collected from 3,620 opioid dependants in 10 districts. It also found that opioids worth Rs7,500 crore are consumed in Punjab every year. Of these, heroin is the most common with a share of Rs 6,500 crore.
Previous studies in 2008 and 2012 (UNAIDS and UN Office on Drugs and Crime Studies respectively) for Punjab indicated that pharmaceutical injectables were the drugs of choice.