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Drug addicts in Chandigarh getting easy access to opioids used in de-addiction treatment

PGI experts say youth get these drugs either from local dealers or pharmacies; 40% of opioid users inject buprenorphine, which is meant for de-addiction or pain relief

punjab Updated: Sep 11, 2017 13:33 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Drug addicts,Punjab,Udta Punjab
“Nearly 40% of the opioid users in Chandigarh were using injections opioids, wherein buprenorphine was the commonest type,” the survey mentions. (Representative image )

Drug addicts in Chandigarh are having an easy access to buprenorphine – an opioid used to treat opioid addiction. The findings of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) study have raised a question mark on the poor regulatory controls of the health department.

  • 53,000 city residents use any substance which means 1 of 16 persons
  • 40,000 take alcohol that means 1 of 20 persons
  • 26,000 are addicted to tobacco that is 1 of 31 persons
  • There are 14,000 alcohol and 18,000 tobacco dependents
  • 1 in 10 substance users have problems with their families
  • Only 1 in 1,000 admitted for treatment in Chandigarh

A survey was conducted in Chandigarh to get an estimation of the population using illicit drugs (opioids). It was found that nearly 7,000 people in Chandigarh are dependent on opioids. Most of them are as young as 29 and poorly educated. Experts found that unlike in Punjab where ‘bhukki’ ‘doda’ and ‘khus-khus’ are most common opioids, in Chandigarh addicts prefers injecting opioids and that too buprenorphine.

“Nearly 40% of the opioid users in Chandigarh were using injections opioids, wherein buprenorphine was the commonest type,” the survey mentions. Dr Ajit Awasthi, head of the psychiatry department, PGIMER, said, that this revelation is worrying because buprenorphine is a medically used drug.

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

“The drug which should be used for de-addiction purposes or for pain relief or other medical purposes is actually being used in Chandigarh to inject for dependence pruposes,” he said.

“This is alarming to know that our regulatory controls are not in place. Heroin can be smuggled but you can say that buprenormohine is also being smuggled. It shows that there is a diversion either from dealers, manufacturers or health facilities where it is being given for medical purposes,” said Dr Awasthi. “As doctors it worries us.”

The youth easily gets these drugs either from local dealers or from pharmacies.While 75% started taking drugs for fun, 64% took it out of curiosity, 53% because of peer pressure and then there exist other reasons.

Further, only 5.3% got admitted in hospitals for treatment


The psychiatry department of the PGIMER has released a household survey report about the substance use and dependence in Chandigarh.

  • Buprenorphine: 80.7%
  • Heroin: 1.7%
  • Pentazocine : 5.8%
  • Tramadol: 1.8%

Total 2,000 city residents from 743 households of 26 wards in urban areas and 6 villages in rural sites were enrolled for the survey. It was conducted in 2015. Total 6.55% of the Chandigarh population is using drugs (alcohol, tobacco, opioids) and 3% are dependent on it.

It means that 1 in 15 persons are using any substance in Chandigarh. “Total 53,000 city residents use any substance and 24,000 are dependent on them. The most common substance use in Chandigarh is alcohol, followed by tobacco,” finds the survey.

“While nearly 40,000 are alcohol users, there are more than 14,000 who are dependent on alcohol. Apart from this, 18,000 city residents are dependent on tobacco,” the survey. Strangely, only 1 in 1,000 substance users were admitted for treatment in Chandigarh.

First Published: Sep 10, 2017 13:34 IST