The Menace of Drug Abuse

“Drug addiction is a complex illness with far-reaching consequences for those who know, work with, and support the drug-addicted individual. Families suffer due to cultural and social factors of drug behaviour, including their own understanding of the disease process and the addict’s behaviour due to drug abuse; draining of family resources, shrinking from responsibilities, sickness, and dysfunctional relationships, distortion of interpersonal family relationships, violence and death faced as a consequence of drug abuse. The cost of drug abuse is enormous and multifaceted which poses severe threat to the social fabric of the country. Ergo, instances of drug abuse are required to be dealt with a strict hard on Crime attitude.” Bikash Duria v. State of Odisha.

Oche Otorkpa has rightly said that drug addiction is like a curse and until it is broken, its victim will perpetually remain in the shackles of bondage. An expert committee of the World Health Organisation observed that drug addiction is a state of periodic or chronic intoxication, detrimental to the individual and to society, produced by repeated consumption of a drug either natural or synthetic. Its characteristics include an overpowering desire or need to continue taking the drug and to obtain it by any means, a tendency to increase the dose, and a psychological and sometimes a physical dependence on the effects of the drug. Today, drug abuse has become a reason to worry for all of us considering its rampant rise all over the world. In December 1987, the UN General Assembly decided to observe 26th June as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking to achieve the objectives of an international society free of drug abuse. The theme for the 2020 International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was Better Knowledge for Better Care. India is a signatory to the UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961, UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971 & UN Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988 which obligates member countries to monitor the implementation of the conventions of the United Nations.

According to Encyclopaedia of Crime and Justice (Vol. 2 – Encyclopaedia of Crime and Justice, Vol. 2, Page 643), the research findings on drug use and crime are: there is some evidence that the use of drugs other than alcohol causes crimes directly as a result of such factors as impaired functioning, paranoia, and negligence. However, the overall contribution is quite small relative to that for alcohol use. There exists a relation between crime and even modest use of illicit non-addictive drugs. However, prospective follow-up longitudinal studies have found no evidence that non-addictive drug use leads to crime; rather, both appear to result from the interaction of multiple factors. The available data do not preclude the possibility that heavy involvement may contribute to crime for some individuals. For contemporaneous samples of narcotic addicts, criminality generally precedes narcotic use and typically increases after the onset of addiction. There is strong evidence that narcotic addiction results in an increase in the amount of income-generating crime. Criminality is reduced during periods of less-than daily use and during periods of methadone maintenance treatment.

Article 47 of the Indian Constitution directs the State to endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drugs injurious to health. The legislative policy is contained in the three Central Acts, which are, Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988. The responsibility of drug abuse control is carried out through a number of Ministries, Departments and Organisations. These include the Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue which has the nodal co-ordination role as administrator of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988. The Government of India constituted the Narcotics Control Bureau on 17th March, 1986. The Bureau has to exercise the powers and functions of the Central Government for taking measures with respect to co-ordination of actions by various offices, State Governments and other authorities under the NDPS Act, Customs Act, Drugs and Cosmetics Act and any other law for the time being in force in connection with the enforcement provisions of the NDPS Act, 1985, implementation of the obligation in respect of counter measures against illicit traffic under the various international conventions and protocols that are in force at present or which may be ratified or acceded to by India in future, assistance to concerned authorities in foreign countries and concerned international organisations to facilitate coordination and universal action for prevention and suppression of illicit traffic in these drugs and substances, coordination of actions taken by the other concerned Ministries, Departments and Organizations in respect of matters relating to drug abuse.

The Supreme Court of India has observed that the importance of adopting a holistic solution to deal with issues pertaining to alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse in the school curriculum has to be adequately emphasised. The authorities should consider how children should be sensitised (having due regard to the age and stage of the child) of the dangers of drug use, the necessity to report drug use and the need to develop resistance to prevailing peer and social pressures. The Supreme Court has also opined that urgent steps need to be taken, like formulation of a national action plan for children, creation of a module containing an appropriate curriculum for children of all age groups in order to keep them away from drugs, alcohol and tobacco; setting up of de-addiction centres; establishing a standard operating procedure on enforcing the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and implementing the action plan with the National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Recently, the Punjab and Haryana High Court enunciated that the lives of the citizens are being destroyed due to the selling of the banned substances and there is an alarming spike in the number of people buying and selling these contrabands in the country which needs to be controlled in an effective manner so as to minimise it. The Orissa High Court also observed that the furtive smuggling and trafficking of drugs link it to a host of social ills, including involvement in crime, destabilization and decline in family relationship, kinship, neighbourhoods etc. More importantly, it has resulted in rampant substance abuse by the youth. The Parliament has passed the NDPS Act with an objective to arrest the menace by making the deterrent effect more stringent so that the guilty is appropriately punished. The Act seeks to control both the demand and supply of drugs by criminalizing production, trafficking and use. It prohibits the manufacture, production, possession, consumption, sale, purchase, trade, use, import and export of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, except for medical or scientific purposes. The Judiciary is also saddled with the responsibility of strictly adhering to the law so that the traffickers of drugs do not go unpunished and the growth boom of trafficking is checked. The trafficking and smuggling have flared sporadically in the recent years transcending the geographical boundaries. In India, drug consumption is punishable with the imprisonment ranging from 6 months to 1 year with or without fine. The courts have also the discretion that instead of sentencing, the drug abuser may be directed for medical treatment. Drug trafficking is punishable with rigorous imprisonment which can extend from ten to twenty years of imprisonment with fine from one to two lacs. The rigorous imprisonment for trafficking cannot be less that ten years and the Courts in the appropriate cases are empowered to award fine of even more than two lacs. Law has now been amended in 1989 and death sentence is now provided on second conviction of trafficking.

The cases of drug abuse have increased drastically during the last decade and a duty is cast upon all of us to take concerted steps in order to curtail the dangers of drug abuse. Drug trafficking is also growing at an alarming rate all over the world and combating it effectually is the need of the hour. The State Government must launch awareness drives to make the people aware of the dangers and ill-effects of drug abuse and trafficking on our society. Awareness through media, print media, internet, radio, television, must be encouraged. Establishment of Rehabilitation Centres will also help in a lot of ways to curb drug abuse and trafficking. Our educational institutions must conduct regular surveys for assessing the drug addiction levels among the students and take steps to treat the addicted students by means of medical assistance. They must organize seminars and workshops on the menace of drug abuse and trafficking and its unfavourable consequences. As drug abuse and trafficking are corroding the health fabric of the society, there has to be a close coordination between all agencies which deal with drug abuse and trafficking so that these perils are controlled effectively.