For officials in the drug department and the police who claim that they are unaware of any abuse of prescription drugs, a visit to the wholesale drug market in Bassi Khwaju could perhaps be enlightening.
On a vacant plot behind the wholesale drug market, abuse of prescription drugs is rampant.
Hordes of addicts satiating their craving can be spotted at any time of the day and night. When this HT correspondent visited the infamous site on Monday, 15-20 persons, between 20-35, were busy getting their daily dose.
They appeared oblivious to pain and were pricked themselves ruthlessly to find a vein to take the shot. The desperation was visible on their faces.
The area was replete with empty viols and cough syrup bottles, syringes and wrappers.
In an adjoining plot a middle-aged woman, said to be a carrier, was also busy injecting herself with the drug. On condition of anonymity, she said she picked up the habit from home.
Her late husband and his nephew were addicts. She earns her livelihood from the illegal drug trade and in the process also gets her daily fix.
From rag pickers to businessmen, addicts belong to all social groups. There are a number of reasons behind the rising menace of drug abuse but easy availability is the biggest of them, which lures occasional users to become hard-core addicts.
The addicts generally start with cough syrups, which have opiates and then graduate to harsher varieties.
All the stuff is easily available at the chemist shops. Sources inform that use of injected drugs has shown a steep rise.
For the abusers, it is a cheap way out of their tensions. However, they are later trapped in the downward spiral of drug addiction. Widespread availability does not allow the users to break free of their dependence.
Sources said that many addicts have contracted HIV virus due to sharing of syringes.
Over the counter sale of habit forming drugs is going on under the very nose of the drug department.
A few months ago, licences of a couple of chemists were cancelled, but sources reveal that their business was still on. They sell in bulk to their agents who vend the drugs to the needy and smaller carriers. The latter can be found loitering around the wholesale drug market at any time of the day.
About a week ago, a group of such illegal couriers attacked media representative when he tried to take their picture when they were selling the 'packets'. A decoy "patient" sent by this correspondent to a shop in Bassi Khwaju easily got a package of vial, syringe and tablets for Rs. 100.
More information can also be freely gained by visiting any of drug de-addiction centres where patients willingly tell the names of the sources from where they procured drugs.
To restrict unwarranted sale, in 2009 the drug department made it mandatory for all licence seekers to clarify in their undertaking whether they wanted to stock for sale and distribution, narcotic drugs.
Their licences are stamped accordingly. Many chemists have opted for 'red stamps', implying that they would not sell scheduled drugs, but there is no stopping the trend.
It has been learnt that manufacturers are supplying these drugs without bills and the chemists who are in to illegal business, also sell the same without keeping a record of such sales.
While the addicts have easy access, the genuine patients have to suffer as they do not get the medicine even when a doctor has prescribed it, as genuine traders have stopped stocking these drugs.
The department allowed freedom to chemists operating from within and outside hospitals to stock scheduled drugs on the condition that they would keep proper record. However, fearing harassment most have opted for a red stamp.
State drug controller Bhag Singh, said he would get the things checked.
“Now we do not have the excuse of shortage of drug inspectors. In fact, in Hoshiarpur, we have two inspectors. It is a serious matter and I would definitely ask for a report,” he added.
What is prescription drug abuse?
Prescription drug abuse means taking a prescription drug that is not prescribed for a user, or taking it for reasons or in dosages other than as prescribed. Abuse of prescription drugs can produce serious health effects, including addiction.
HOW THE RACKET WORKS
Manufacturers are supplying these drugs without bills and the chemists who are in to illegal business, also sell the same without keeping a record of such sales
In 2009, the drug department made it mandatory for all licence seekers to clarify in their undertaking whether they wanted to stock narcotic drugs for sale and distribution
Many chemists have opted for "red stamps", implying that they would not sell scheduled drugs
Genuine patients are suffering as they do not get the medicine even when a doctor has prescribed it as genuine chemists have stopped stocking the drugs.