After a gap of about 15 years, the government has given nod for conducting a nation-wide survey to assess the extent, trend and pattern of drug abuse among people across the country.
To be conducted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in collaboration with the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of AIIMS, the survey will provide national and state level estimates of proportion and absolute number of people who indulge in drug abuse, sources said.
The two-year-long survey will also map the presence of services and interventions for drug dependent individual and identify the gaps in service delivery.
The last nation-wide survey to assess the drug use in India was conducted in 2001 and its data was published in 2004.
“The earlier survey did not provide any data on prevalence of substance use at the level of different states in India, neither did it provide data on prevalence of drug use among women population. Since then there have been small scale studies focused on specific geographical areas or population. But there have been no nation-wide surveys.
“Thus the exact dimensions of this problem in India remain unknown,” a senior Ministry official said.
The government’s decision to conduct the survey comes in the wake of a recent survey ‘Punjab Opioid Dependence Survey’ (PODS) which estimated that there are about 2.3 lakh opioid-dependent people in the state, which consumes drugs worth Rs 7,500 crore every year.
Also, the recently released Bollywood film “Udta Punjab” had created a flutter over the issue of drug abuse.
According to the official, one of the major programming obstacles is inadequate information about the extent and scale of alcohol and drug dependence in the country.
“Additionally, India is expected to report to international agencies (like United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and World Health Organisation) on questions related to data on extent of substance use in India. In such instances, government has to rely on the old survey published in 2004,” he added.
The project is estimated to cost over Rs 22 crore.
The drugs include all those listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition (ICD-10) and include categories like alcohol, tobacco, opioids, sedative-hypnotics, cannabis, stimulants, hallucinogens and inhalants, said Dr Atul Ambekar, additional professor at NDDTC and principal investigator of the survey.
“The study will include a household survey to determine the proportion of people who use drugs and people who are drug dependent,” Ambekar said.
Besides, there will be focused thematic studies on specific topics or vulnerable populations which will include studying the pattern of drug abuse among homeless, prison residents, transgenders, female sex workers, transport workers (truck, taxi drivers, cleaners ets), said Dr Ambekar.
The questions during the interview will pertain to socio- demographic data, substance use pattern, consequence of substance use, availability of services and knowledge and attitude towards substance use.
As per the last survey report, the proportion of men using alcohol was 21 per cent, cannabis 3 per cent and opioids was 0.7 per cent.
The survey was jointly conducted by the Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses and NDDTC, AIIMS.