Dharamsala: To mark the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, an awareness rath was flagged off by the health minister from Ichhi to sensitize people in general and the youth in particular, about the menace of drugs. The awareness drive organized under the aegis of HP State AIDS Control Society and Kangra District Red Cross society, consisted of mobile exhibition, musical programmes and quiz at Kangra, Palampur Dharmashala.
India is wedged between the world’s two largest areas of illicit opium production, the Golden Crescent and the Golden Trianglle, which makes India a destination and a transit route to developed countries for opiates produced in these regions. According to the national survey on the extent, pattern and trends of drug abuse in India-2004, alcohol, cannabis and opiates are the three most common drugs of use. 21.4% used Alcohol; 3% use Cannabis, 0.7% use Opiates, 3.6 % use any illicit drug and 0.1% are intravenous drug users. Currently in India, there are approximately 6.25 crore alcohol users, 87 lakh cannabis users & 20 lakh opiate users. Among current alcohol users, 17% are dependent users, 26% of current cannabis users and 22% of current opiate users are dependent users. India has 1 crore alcohol-dependent individuals, 23 lakh cannabis-dependent and 5 lakh opiate-dependent individuals. India’s population having twice the global average prevalence of illicit opiate consumption, moreover the treatment resources available are not commensurate with the number of dependent drug users requiring immediate treatment.
Drug abuse is a problem in Himachal Pradesh with cannabis cultivation pockets existing across the state. HP has the second highest prevalence of alcohol users (37.3%) in the country; Cannabis use is seen predominantly in HP (60.8%).
Drug abuse has a detrimental impact on society. It has led to increase in the crime rate. Addicts resort to crime to pay for their drugs. Drugs remove inhibition and impair judgment egging one on to commit offences. Women face greater problems from drug abuse ranging from domestic violence and infection with HIV, as well as the financial burden. Most of the domestic violence is directed against women and occurs in the context of demands for money to buy drugs. Drug abuse is linked with corruption, terrorism and violence threatening the very stability of governments. Children start on drugs for a number of reasons, from curiosity, recreation to the need to cope with stress but drug abuse and addiction lead to a complex set of social, medical and economic problems with serious implications. In India, by the time most boys reach the ninth grade, about 50 percent of them have tried at least one of the gateway drugs. Drug use starts with experimentation and casual use and gradually increases to dependence. Physically, the body develops also tolerance for it. This can lead to increases in consumption, which eventually leads to physical dependence. It is easy to say No than to return from the path of drug addiction.
Various social activists, taxi drivers, auto driver, members of beopar mandal, students carried out a candlelight procession at Mc Leodganj from Taxi Stand to local market to raise awareness about this problem. In Himachal Pradesh, the first case of HIV/AIDS was detected in 1992. As 31st March 2009, there are 3467 PLHIV in HP, of which 844 are in Kangra. District Kangra is a low prevalence district, with < 0.25% prevalence in antenatal group, however we need to address it at an early stage.
The Integrated Counseling and Testing Centre (ICTC) at Dharamsala, established in March 2002 is the oldest in the state after the Medical College Shimla. ICTC are also located at Civil Hospitals Palampur, Kangra, Dehra and Medical College Tanda and over 14600 persons have availed free HIV counseling and testing facility in the District. Over 33 outreach counseling and testing caps were held during the present year by counselors to offer services to those who cannot access the ICTCs.
Free condoms are being distributed through Indian Oil Petrol pumps and civil supply outlets in addition to all health facilties.