A staggering 1.58 crore children, aged between 10 to 17, are addicted to substances in the country, the central government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Citing data from a survey conducted following an apex court order, it said that alcohol is the most commonly used psychoactive substance by Indians followed by cannabis and opioids.
About 16 crore people consume alcohol and more than 5.7 crore individuals are affected by harmful or dependent alcohol use and need help.
The government said 3.1 crore individuals use cannabis products and about 25 lakh suffer from cannabis dependence, while 2.26 crore people use opioids and approximately 77 lakh individuals require help for opioid use problems.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the central government, told a bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna that following the apex court’s 2016 verdict, it had conducted a nationwide survey on the extent and pattern of substance use in India.
She said the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in compliance with the directions given by the top court in the verdict dated Dec. 14, 2016, had completed a first-of-its-kind national survey to generate a national database on substance use.
Senior advocate HS Phoolka, appearing for the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan contended that the government is not complying with the directions of the top court issued in 2016 and has not covered all aspects in its national plan to combat substance abuse.
The bench asked Phoolka whether he is aggrieved by non-compliance of the order or if something more could have been done in the plan.
Phoolka said though the national plan has been complied with, more aspects could have been covered.
The bench said it is tagging the matter with a case the court had taken up on its own which also deals, more or less, with the same issue and is being heard by the Chief Justice’s bench.
Bhati said various reports have been filed by different ministries in the case and agreed that the matter can be tagged with the case being heard by the Chief Justice.
In its affidavit, the ministry said it conducted the survey through the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences during 2018.
“Alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used by Indians (among the substances included in this survey). Nationally, about 14.6% of the population (between 10 and 75 year of age) uses alcohol. In terms of absolute numbers, there are about 16 crore persons who consume alcohol in the country,” the survey said.
It added the use of alcohol is considerably higher among men (27.3%) as compared to women (1.6%) and states with the highest prevalence of alcohol use are Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Punjab, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa.
“For every one woman who consumes alcohol, there are 17 men consuming alcohol. Among alcohol users, country liquor or ‘desi sharab’ (about 30%) and spirits or Indian Made Foreign Liquor (about 30%) are the predominantly consumed beverages,” the survey said.
It said after alcohol, cannabis and opioids are the next commonly used substances in India and about 2.8% of the population (3.1 crore individuals) reported having used any cannabis product within the previous year.
“The use of cannabis was further differentiated between the legal form of cannabis (bhang) and other illegal cannabis products (ganja and charas). Use of these cannabis products was observed to be about 2% (approximately 2.2 crore persons) for bhang and about 1.2% (approximately 1.3 crore persons) for illegal cannabis products. States with the highest prevalence of cannabis use are Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Sikkim, Chhattisgarh and Delhi,” it said.
The government said to address the problem of drug abuse among citizens of this country, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formulated and implemented the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction under which the government is taking sustained and coordinated action for arresting the problem of substance abuse among the youth and women.
It said the prime objective of NAPDDR is to focus on preventive education, awareness generation, identification, counseling, treatment and rehabilitation of individuals with substance dependence, training and capacity building of service providers through collaborative efforts of the central and state governments and NGOs.
The affidavit elaborated on the details of work done by the NAPDDR like launch of ‘Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan’ in 372 most vulnerable districts, under which a massive community outreach is being done through more than 8,000 youth volunteers.
In another affidavit filed by the Ministry of Education, the government said it has taken steps to create awareness about substance use and has adopted specific content in the school curriculum under the aegis of the National Education Policy, 2020.
“That at present, concerns regarding substance abuse, awareness and development of life skill for prevention of substance abuse have already been integrated in existing resource materials/ textbooks/ supplementary materials developed by the NCERT and these are regularly disseminated through capacity building program (for teachers) organised by the NCERT,” it said.