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Unemployed youth take to drugs

Three years ago, over 16% of Punjab’s population was addicted to hard drugs.

JATINDER PREET  Ludhiana | 5th Aug 2012

Punjab is in the grip of a worsening problem of drug abuse. The state's frustrated youth, without much employment opportunities in the countryside or small towns and cities, are increasingly taking to drugs. While most of them are dependent on synthetic and medicinal drugs, hard drugs are also becoming easily available even in small towns and villages.

Three years ago, the state government's social security department told the Punjab and Haryana High Court that 67% of its rural household had at least one drug addict. The state with highest per head consumption of alcohol has over 16% of its population addicted to hard drugs, the same affidavit submitted in the court disclosed. The situation has been worsening over the years.

41-year-old Kanwarpal Singh of Sudhar village near Ludhiana recalls the problem of intoxication in one form or the other. According to him, the problem always existed, but was limited to a few people, mostly alcoholics. A small number of people were known to be addicted to opium or poppy husk earlier, which was not easily available. But the baffling variety of drugs now available is a recent phenomenon. A young man in his early 20s died of smack overdose in the village recently. Another heroine addict, a young man from the nearby Boparai village, died when he was on his way to Delhi to board a flight to Canada. There are many who are addicted to drugs from cough syrups to smack and heroine, says Kanwarpal. People in the area are now asking for a de-addiction centre, a demand endorsed by the senior superintendent of police, G.S. Toor.

The state government has announced to form a Punjab State Society for Prevention and Control of Drug Abuse with the primary objective of prevention, control and awareness about effects of drugs. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal also gave his approval for the setting up of a drug de-addiction centre at Bathinda and asked the health department to explore the possibility of setting up another centre in Ludhiana. Another such centre is already coming up in Amritsar. More grants have been released for drug de-addition units attached to the 31 district and sub-divisional hospitals in the state. This follows recommendations given by a team of experts from the department of psychiatry in Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Chandigarh. The expert group also recommended the creation and strengthening of de-addiction facilities in each of the eight central jails. In another desperate step, the state government announced to honour the panchayats of villages that are completely free from drugs.

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