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A bigger killer than cancer

punjab Updated: Aug 22, 2012 15:52 IST
Raghbir Singh Brar

Cancer pales before drugs in claiming young lives in Punjab.The state's 74% young population is addicted to drugs, the psychiatry department of Guru Gobind Singh Medical College, Faridkot, has suggested in its report.

Unemployment, family discord, depression, peer pressure, fashion, poor health because of imbalanced diet, and the burden of work have driven the young to this point.

"Punjab's 66% schoolboys chew gutkha, and more students in college do alcohol and drugs," said Dr Harish Arora, head of the department of psychiatry in the Faridkot medical college. "We have admitted even boys aged 10 for de-addiction. They inhaled tyre glue, a petroleum jelly."

Rinku, 15, a boy of Kotkapura, is admitted to the Red Cross de-addiction centre at the Faridkot Civil Hospital. "I used to inhale correction fluid, three vials a day." Nirmal Singh, 32, of Jagraon, Ludhiana, another addict under rehabilitation, took 15 Parvon Spas capsules a day.

"Young Punjabis are taking to drugs in Canada as well," said a young North American under detox here. "Only the drugs are not prescription medicine, but many chemicals that are more harmful. Heroin, smack, and charas are killers-in-chief."

A gram of heroin in Canada costs about $200 (Rs 11,275), and some addicts spend it in a day. "I came to India to quit hard drugs," said the man, "but here I got hooked to strong doses of de-addiction medicine, which I have to go back to Canada to quit."

It's the poor who are more fond of prescription drugs. "Some of our recovering addicts still take 200 Lomotil tablets a day," said Dr Arora. Carrisoma, Lomotil, Fortadol, Parvon Spas and Proxivon are popular prescription drugs. Besides, there are opium, smack, and poppy husk.

Poppy husk is available to the poor commonly, thanks to drug mafia, which have also made it affordable. Cannabis, charas, ganja and heroin are other traps that Punjabis fall into, the report suggests. "We receive addicts of almost all kinds of drugs," said Dr Ranjeet Kaur, psychiatrist at the Red Cross de-addiction centre. "The rich are hooked to costly drugs, and the poor to cheap substances."

"To give up drugs, the addict has to be prepared mentally," said Dr Ranjeet Kaur. "We first detoxicate them for some days by putting them on substitutes that are, later also withdrawn. Counselling is the next step."

This psychiatry department has counted at least one drug addict each in 64% households of Punjab (61% in Majha, 64% in Malwa, and 68% in Doaba). Amritsar in the urban areas, and Tarn Taran in the rural population are the worst affected. "Cross-border smuggling has made Punjab the busiest drug transit point in the world," stated the report.

Figures to fear

66% schoolboys chew gutkha
64% households have one addict at least

Worst hit

Amritsar in the urban areas
Tarn Taran in the rural areas

Popular drugs

Prescription drugs: Carrisoma, Lomotil, Fortadol, Parvon Spas, Proxivon
Opiates: opium, smack, poppy husk
Available to children: Cannabis, ganja, correction fluid, tyre glue, gutkha
Killers-in-chief: heroin, smack, charas