Now, addicts get high from over-the-counter chemist shop drugs

New Delhi: Medicines used for managing
menstrual pain and other such prescription drugs are becoming
favourites among addicts in India who are exploiting the ready
availability of pharma drugs to get their high, say experts.

A report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
released recently pegs India as the largest consumer of heroin
in South Asia and experts believe that there is a surge of
pharmaceutical drug abuse in the country.

"Easily available pharmaceutical drugs like Spasmo
Proxyvon, Tramadol and Ketamine make them the most abused
drugs in North-East India. Addicts take as much as 24
injections a day," says Dr Chwand Lung Muana, Project Officer,
Shalom, an NGO for HIV and AIDS in Mizoram.

Such drugs are readily available at any chemist shop
and are legally prescribed even by premier health institutes
such as All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for
pain management, especially to pregnant women and women during
mensturation, adds Dr Muana who participated in the launch of
UNODC campaign "Think Health not Drugs."

"Globally, the number of people using amphetamine-type
stimulants - estimated at around 30-40 million - is soon
likely to exceed the number of opiate and cocaine users
combined. There is also evidence of increasing abuse of
prescription drugs," states UNODC`s World Drug Report 2010.

In India, easy availability and least legal check
makes prescription drugs, especially for pain management the
latest hit among the drug addicts, says Prasada Rao, Special
Advisor to Executive Director, UNAIDS.

The addiction to legal pharma drugs have also paved
the way for an HIV explosion in the country, says Asha, a
former project member of UNODC in Punjab.

"Almost 20-30 per cent of such addicts in North-East
are already HIV positive. They are instrumental in spreading
the menace," says Dr Muana.

The growing dependency over pharma drugs has also
trapped people in one of the most affluent states - Punjab -
of the country, a state which experts say is home to an
abundant supply of drugs.

Ajit Singh, co-founder Vidya Mandir, an initiative for
education and sensitisation towards drugs abuse, cites the
case of Maqboolpura near Amritsar also known as the land of
widows where the majority of male members have succumbed to
excessive drug usage.

"A compounder regularly bicycles to Maqboolpura and
injects addictive pharma drugs to people using the same
syringe. This, obviously has paved the way for an HIV

Former UNODC project member Asha points out,"This is
not just one such Maqboolpura in Punjab. There are hundreds of
such villages, where drugs flow in abundance."

Abuse of prescribed pharma drugs is prevalent without
government and legal checks, claim experts.

"Prescription drugs for pain management are used
without legal prescription. There is an indispensable angle of
crime associated with drug usage. It is the prevalence of
criminal organisations and drug mafias that is driving the
market for drugs," says Cristina Albertin, UNODC`s South Asia

Emphasising on the measures to control the menace, Dr
Muana says the need of the hour is to ensure that adequate
primary interventions such as sensitising youth and empowering
them through counselling and advocacy is required to restrain
them from drug abuse.

"Drug abuse of any sort is not an individual problem.

It is a social problem as an addict can create curiosity among
non users thereby multiplying the number of users. A
collective onus is required to curb the issue from its roots,"
says Ajit Singh.

"Both the Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry
of Chemicals and Fertilisers should take collaborative
measures to check the rapidly growing abuse of pharmaceutical
drugs," adds Prasada Rao of UNAIDS.


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