Think Health, Not Drugs

The International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which falls on 26th June, is a grim reminder of the detrimental effects of drug abuse which is destroying lives, encouraging crimes and threatening economic development all over the world. The theme for this year's drug campaign is 'Think Health, Not Drugs,' with the aim to to sensitize the people in general and the youth in particular, to the harms of using drugs. Read more
In his message this year, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has rightly emphasized that "We must recognize the major impediment to development posed by drug abuse and illicit trafficking. Drug abuse poses significant health challenges. Injecting drug use is a leading cause of the spread of HIV. Cultivating illicit crops and producing drugs threaten the environment, taking drugs puts the health of users at risk, and the illicit drug trade undermines the rule of law. Drug-related crime deepens vulnerability to instability and poverty. To break this vicious circle, it is essential to promote development in drug-growing regions. Our work to achieve the MDGs and fight drugs must go hand-in-hand. In seeking to eradicate illicit crops, we must also work to wipe out poverty. On this International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, let us reaffirm our commitment to this shared responsibility within our communities, and among the family of nations.”

The picture is indeed grim if the world statistics on the drugs scenario is taken into account. It is slated to be the third largest business in the world, next to petroleum and arms trade. Today, there is no part of the world that is free from the curse of drug trafficking and drug addiction. Millions of drug addicts, all over the world, are leading miserable lives, between life and death. Drug abuse not only saps physical energy, it also plays havoc with the mental health of the abuser. Drug addiction has caused immense human distress and the illegal production and distribution of drugs have spawned crime and violence worldwide.Demand begets supply and vice versa, creating an unending vicious spiral cutting into our moral and social fabric with a frightening pace.

India too is caught in this scary web of drug abuse, and the numbers of drug addicts are increasing day by day. According to a UN report, one million heroin addicts are registered in India, and unofficially the number could be five times more. Cannabis products (like charas, bhang, ganja), heroin, and Indian-produced pharmaceutical products containing narcotic drugs (like intravenous injections of dextropropoxphene and codeine based cough syrups) are the most frequently abused drugs in India.
The menace has permeated to all sections of our society—rich and poor, urban and rural. It is not uncommon to find these addicts at traffic signals, wiping your car and asking for money in return, or simply begging on streets to pay for their daily dose. The scenario could be worse in the upper strata of society, where parents and spouses first struggle to accept the grim reality and then grope in the dark to find a solution.

In India we face another problem of overuse of pharmaceutical drugs/medicines. We seem to be having a penchant for 'popping up pills' at the slightest pretext, be they analgesics, antibiotics or the seemingly harmless vitamin pills. As most of these and other drugs (even some which are banned in other countries), are sold over the counter, there is rampant misuse of them, dictated by our whims and fancies. Even doctors advise to be cautious and refrain from eating medicines without medical consultation. It would be in the interest of our health if we consume healthy food, rather than resort to dietary supplements, which may cause more harm than good, or at the best have a placebo effect. Addiction to medicines can also play havoc with our health in the long run.

According to Ms. Aruna Joshi, a district prohibition officer of UP, ‘the disintegration of the old joint family system, absence of parental love and care in modern families where both parents are working, decline of old moral values are leading to a rise in the number of young drug addicts who take drugs to escape harsh realities of life.’ She feels that 'government intervention alone cannot control this menace, unless society itself stands up to say no to drugs. Doctors, parents and teachers need to collaborate and work together to prevent new entrants from entering this deathly trap, and also to wean away those who are already addicted.'

To support the demand for drugs, the nexus of farmers, global drug cartels and middlemen ‘sow the seeds’, leaving no stone unturned to perpetuate their nefarious trade. The drug racket needs to be busted, which is what the anti-drug campaigns are constantly striving to do – yet it is basically society and individuals who can help meet these objectives. Despite Asia being the region with the largest number of people using injecting drugs in the world, it has the lowest coverage/access of harm reduction services across the globe. The lack of affordable HIV and hepatitis C prevention, treatment, care and support services is largely driven by the stigma and discrimination associated with drug use.

People, who use drugs, are stigmatized, criminalized and abused everywhere, more so in Asia. It is important to “clean up” drug treatment and introduce evidence based services in consultation with persons who use drugs.. Most of the people with high risk behaviours in their lives have been craving for compassion and deprived of access to information and services as well. It is vital for counselors to establish a rapport with individuals before trying to redress their problems. Nothing is more therapeutic than a compassionate shoulder.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime exhorts and supports all nations to address drug use and drug addiction as any other health disorder: i.e. by implementing drug use prevention interventions and providing drug dependence treatment and care services, which are based on scientific evidence and on ethical standards.

According to Mrs. Jagjit Navadia, Narcotics Commissioner, “We, as a nation, need to make concerted efforts to reduce our vulnerability to drugs. There is a need to channelize the energies of the younger generation to engage in sports as well as focus to work on socially relevant causes, and rededicate ourselves to the cause and strive to build a drug free, healthier and safer India”.

Shobha Shukla
(The author is the CNS Editor, has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP, and teaches Physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. Email:, website:

Published in:
Citizen News Service (CNS), India/Thailand