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Posted at: Sep 10, 2017, 2:08 AM; last updated: Sep 10, 2017, 2:28 PM (IST)

Less than 1% in Punjab addicted to drugs

PGI report: Opioid users number 2.7 lakh; alcohol, not ‘chitta’, main intoxicant in state
Less than 1% in Punjab addicted to drugs

Mohit Khanna

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 9

In Punjab, alcohol and tobacco are the most common intoxicants and not the infamous ‘chitta’ (heroin), as is the popular perception. These are the findings of a study by the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) and the Punjab Government. The study was ordered in 2015 amid a raging controversy over the extent of drug addiction among Punjab’s youth. 

The study says while 22 lakh Punjabis are addicted to alcohol and 16 lakh to tobacco, less than 1 per cent (0.9) — 2.7 lakh of the state’s population — may be hooked on drugs. A survey by AIIMS-Delhi had put the number at 2.3 lakh. The survey, funded by the Department of Health and Family Welfare, says one out of every six persons is dependent on substance use, which is more common in Punjab’s villages than cities. The single most common substance used is alcohol (22 lakh), followed by tobacco (16 lakh).

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Dr Ajit Awasthi, Dr Abhishek Ghosh and Dr Subodh of the Department of Psychiatry comprised the team that carried out the survey, which says that one in 92 persons has used a banned substance (drug) in the past year and more than one in 87 is dependent on drugs. These estimates are likely to be higher in marginalised or other high-risk populations — the homeless, jail inmates, truck drivers and students in hostels.

One per cent of the population  is dependent on opioids (drugs derived from opium, including morphine), as per conservative estimates.

One in 33 persons has met with an accident because of substance use. One in 10 has reported medical problems, one in 50 psychological disorders and one in four family problems owing to substance use. Formal treatment support was sought by only one in six.

The team surveyed 6,398 households in all 22 Punjab districts, picking 22 cities and 22 villages in each district. The total number of respondents was 13,295, the age group 11 to 60 years.

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