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How drugs like heroin, opium, cocaine, marijuana make way into India

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By Harshmeet Singh

Over the past decade or so, the drug trafficking patterns in India have seen a major change. Drugs entering India from Nepal and Bhutan now constitute the major proportion of drugs coming to India illegally. The open borders in UP and Bihar witness a major import of brown sugar, marijuana (ganja) and hasish from Nepal and Bhutan.

Drug cartels

The drug cartels, usually Nigerians or Kenyans, enter the scene once the drugs reach India from across the borders. It is the responsibility of these middle men to ship the drugs to international markets in the USA, Europe and Canada. The New Delhi / Mumbai – Lagos – Addis Ababa air routes have been frequently used by the drug cartels to carry drugs to the International markets from India. There have been multiple instances when authorities have confiscated drugs from terminally ill patients who are flown to India for treatment.

Ease of drug availability

The most frightening aspect of the drug abuse problem in the country is the ease with which these drugs reach the hands of the youth. Situated between the two well known illicit opium producing areas in Asia, the Golden Crescent and the Golden Triangle, India’s geographical position ensures easy drug trafficking to the country. Afghanistan, a part of the Golden Crescent, accounts for more than 90% of world’s illicit opium. The country is also the biggest producer of hashish in the world.

Porous borders at the northeast and Kashmir side ensure that the drugs easily reach the country. The vast, barren and poorly guarded Thar Desert provide an ideal route for drug trafficking into India. Local production of low grade heroin in India due to an increasing demand has further added to the existing drug problem in the country.

The rise of Sikh militancy in Punjab in the 1980s resulted in a spurt in drug trafficking cases in the state. The Wagah-Attari border was repeatedly used by the miscreants to carry drugs across the border. The Samjhauta express, between Amritsar and Lahore, has also been known to be used for drug trafficking from Pakistan to India on a frequent basis. This has made Amritsar a major heroine centre in Punjab. Numerous seizures of drugs at the Kutch give enough indication about the use of local boats from Karachi to supply drugs into India. There have been enough evidences to show that a significant portion of the money made by drug trade is supplied to the militants active in Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab.

Goa – the party destination or the drug capital?

The frequent rave parties and a constant domestic and international tourist inflow make Goa an ideal drug market. The famous beaches of Goa are filled with local drug dealers who can be called upon just by blowing a whistle. Over the years, the local drug mafia has spread its business beyond the country and started exporting to countries like Thailand and Malaysia. Current trends point towards the use of small children for drug trafficking, owing to softer juvenile laws in the country.

The unfortunate case of Nigerian Obodo Uzomo Simeon’s death in Goa in 2013 is still afresh in the public memory. Things turned ugly when Goan BJP MLA Michael Lobo justified his murder saying that “98 per cent Nigerians, African nationals in Goa are involved in drugs”. The allegations of involvement of Russian drug mafia in the murder of British teen Scarlette in Goa in 2008 was a growing indication of Goa slipping into the hands drug mafias.

An increasingly young population makes India extremely vulnerable to even higher levels of drug abuse in the coming years. One feels that the correct education and ethics would be more effective than the legislation in putting a lid on the drug problem in the country.

How bad is India’s situation?

With an average of 7 suicides every day, drug addiction and drug abuse accounts for 3.3% of all the suicides in the country. This number is much higher than the suicides caused due to poverty (1.9%), bankruptcy (2%) and dowry (1.6%). According to the data furnished by the Ministry of Social Justice and empowerment, India is home to over 3 million drug abuse victims.

According to the Narcotics Control Bureau, Punjab has faced the most drug seizures in the country over the past few years, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. According to the officials, despite an exponential growth in the number of cases booked for drug abuse in the recent years, there have been negligible executions. The Narcotics Bureau and Psychotropic Substances Act prescribes for a minimum of 10 years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for drug offences. Over the past 4 years, more than 100 million kilogram of drugs has been seized from various parts of the country, with Punjab accounting for almost 60% of them.

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  • Jagpreet Kaur Sandhu

    It’s unfortunate that usage of drugs in India is rising day by day. And there are thousands of ways today to get them.

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Low Quality Drugs, Medicine Costs More Than Just Money

Even in high-income countries, purchasing cheaper medicines from illegitimate sources online could result in obtaining substandard or falsified medicines.

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Medicines
A seized counterfeit hydrocodone tablets in the investigation of a rash of fentanyl overdoses in northern California is shown in this Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). VOA

About one in eight essential medicines in low- and middle-income countries may be fake or contain dangerous mixes of ingredients that put patients’ lives at risk, a research review suggests.

Researchers examined data from more 350 previous studies that tested more 400,000 drug samples in low- and middle-income countries. Overall, roughly 14 percent of medicines were counterfeit, expired or otherwise low quality and unlikely to be as safe or effective as patients might expect.

“Low-quality medicines can have no or little active pharmaceutical ingredient [and] can prolong illness, lead to treatment failure and contribute to drug resistance,” said lead study author Sachiko Ozawa of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Or it may have a too much active ingredient and cause a drug overdose,” Ozawa said by email. “If it is contaminated or has other active ingredients, then the medication could cause poisoning, adverse drug interactions or avertable deaths.”

Much of the research to date on counterfeit or otherwise unsafe medicines has focused on Africa, and about half of the studies in the current analysis were done there.

 

medicines
One in five medications tested in Africa were fake. Pixabay

 

Almost one in five medications tested in Africa were fake or otherwise potentially unsafe, researchers report in JAMA Network Open.

 

Another third of the studies were done in Asia, where about 14 percent of medicines tested were found to be counterfeit or otherwise unsafe.

Antibiotics and antimalarials were the most tested drugs in the analysis. Overall, about 19 percent of antimalarials and 12 percent of antibiotics were falsified or otherwise unsafe.

While fake or improperly made medicines undoubtedly harm patients, the current analysis couldn’t tell how many people suffered serious side effects or died as a result of falsified drugs.

Researchers did try to assess the economic impact of counterfeit or improperly made medicines and found the annual cost might run anywhere from $10 billion to $200 billion.

While the study didn’t examine high-income countries, drug quality concerns are by no means limited to less affluent nations, Ozawa said.

Medicines
Different vaccines. Pixabay

“Even in high-income countries, purchasing cheaper medicines from illegitimate sources online could result in obtaining substandard or falsified medicines,” Ozawa said. “Verify the source before you buy medications, and make policymakers aware of the problem so they can work to improve the global supply chain of medicines.”

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how counterfeit or poorly made medicines directly harm patients, however. And the economic impact was difficult to assess from smaller studies that often didn’t include a detailed methodology for calculating the financial toll.

Also Read: Eating in 10-hour Window May Boost Health

The report “provides important validation of what is largely already known,” Tim Mackey of the Global Health Policy Institute in La Jolla, California, writes in an accompanying editorial.

“It is important to note that although the study is comprehensive, its narrow scope means it only provides a snapshot of the entire problem, as it is limited to studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries and to those
medicines classified as essential by the World Health Organization.” (VOA)