Udta Punjab: One in six Punjabis hooked to drugs, reveals PGI study
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Udta Punjab: One in six Punjabis hooked to drugs, reveals PGI study

The highest prevalence of substance abuse was found in Mansa district (39 per cent of the population) while the minimum prevalence was in Ferozepur district with eight per cent.

punjab Updated: Sep 09, 2017 20:39 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Drugs in Punjab,Punjab news,drugs
According to the study, as much as 14.7 per cent (29.7 lakh) of total population in Punjab was estimated to be hooked on substances like alcohol, tobacco, opium, charas and heroin(Representative Image)

With one in six Punjabis dependent on alcohol, tobacco, heroin and cannabis, the problem of drug addiction (substance use and dependence) is severe in Punjab, especially in rural areas.

The revelations were made in a study conducted by the department of psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, which was released today, to know how deep-rooted the problem of drug addiction is in Punjab. To ensure no political party influences the study, the Punjab government was not involved and it was conducted under the supervision of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi.

The study “Epidemiology of Substance Use and Dependence in the State of Punjab” is done in two parts: Household survey and rapid assessment survey.

Under the household survey, over 13,000 people from 22 districts of Punjab were enrolled for the survey, conducted between November 2015 and April 2016.

Currently, 31 lakh Punjabis are using one or the other kind of substance — including alcohol, tobacco, opioids (heroin, smack, brown sugar, opium, poppy husk etc) and injections — and 29.7 lakh are dependent on it. Alcohol, followed by tobacco, tops the chart when it comes to the most common substance used in Punjab.

Currently, 22 lakh people in the state are dependent on alcohol and 16 lakh on tobacco, reveals the survey. Opioid is on the third spot with 1.7 lakh to 2.7 lakh Punjabis dependent on it.

  • 29.7 lakh Punjabis dependent on substances like alcohol, tobacco, opium, charas and heroin
  • 22 lakh are alcoholic
  • 16.4 lakh depended on tobacco
  • 2.7 lakh take opioids
  • 78,000 are injection drug users
  • 18,000 use heroin
  • 22,000 are hooked to natural opioids
  • 6,000 use pharmaceuticals to get a high
  • 3,000 dependent on cannabis


The highest prevalence of substance abuse was found in Mansa district (39% of the population), while the minimum in Ferozepur district with 8%.

The aim of the study was to estimate the size of population using illicit drugs (mainly opioid) in the state. Under the rapid assessment survey, a total of 6,600 Punjabis from 22 districts were enrolled from June 2016 to January 2017 to know illicit drug usage in Punjab. The findings were shocking as 2.7 lakh people, mostly young males, were found to be dependent on opioid. Currently 88% of 6,600 Punjabis are depended on opioid and lifetime dependence is 99%, the study reveals.

Opium and poppy husk are the most common types of opioids used in the state with one of two people hooked to such narcotics. Injectable opioid are the second choice in Punjab with one in four using this form of drugs.

There are 78,000 injectable opioid users in Punjab. Heroin (61.6%) is the most common followed by buprenorphine (used to treat opioid addiction).

The drug addicts are mostly young, poorly educated males. The mean age of users is 30 years with education level less than Class 9 and half of them are unmarried, reveals the study.

Around 78% of addicts get their dose from drug dealers and 59% from pharmacies or medical stores. Nearly 70% of them (70,000 injection drug users) started injecting opioids out of fun and 44% because of peer pressure. It’s not that they never tried quitting drugs. According to the study, 67% of them tried to shun drugs, 49% sought support, 8% underwent counselling, 14% sought support of de-addiction centres and 2.8% got in-patient treatment.


Head of the psychiatry department, PGIMER, Dr Ajit Awasthi says: “The problem of drugs is enormous in Punjab and needs to be addressed, but it cannot be solved by a one-time campaign. The government needs to put consistent efforts to restrict the supply of drugs.”


He said Punjab’s porous borders make it more vulnerable. “Punjab is very uniquely placed. It has international border that is the route of smuggling and there is Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh from where opium and synthetic drugs are supplied. Jammu and Kashmir is another channel.


“The government should spread awareness against drugs among people, especially children,” said Dr Awasthi


He said there should be alternative modes for channelizing the energy of the youth, including sports, social service engagement. “Then we need to provide the avenues of employment to the young. Unemployment is also one of the major problems that drive the youth towards drugs.”


“There are 31 rehabilitation centres in Punjab, at least one each in every district, and even in sub-districts. The infrastructure is there, the government needs to strengthen the rehab centres with manpower to run it efficiently,” Dr Aawasthi said.


• 1 in 10 facing medical problems

• 1 in 50 diagnosed with psychological disorder

• 1 in 4 reported problems in the family

• 1 in 6 sought formal treatment

• 1 in 33 met with an accident under the influence of drugs

First Published: Sep 09, 2017 19:16 IST