The Times Of India, 29 February 2012

Contrary to the impression that India is being used as a transit point by international traffickers to smuggle Afghan heroin to both Europe and the US, the United Nations drug report, 2011, has said that India is the biggest consumer of heroin. Of the 40 tonnes produced in south Asia, nearly 17 tonnes are consumed in India, the biggest consumer in the region with the trade valued at $1.4 billion.

Besides its own consumption, India is the source for all supplies of heroin to Bangladesh and Nepal, at least half of what is consumed in Sri Lanka, and the rest is smuggled to the Island nation via Pakistan.

While speaking at the release of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) annual drug report for 2011, Narcotics Control Bureau director general O P S Malik said the rising student population in some cities in south and western India has been the biggest consumer of drugs.

Besides heroin and designer drugs use, the upwardly mobile population in metros have also been reason for India's rising demand for cocaine. More than 23 kg of cocaine was seized in Mumbai last year, a small percentage of the total consumption.

INCB, a UN agency, reports that only 15 out of 40 tonnnes of heroin produced in the region was trafficked towards south-east Asia, Africa, North America, China and Europe. The rest all was consumed in the region, and majority of them is in India.

The report estimates nearly three million opiate users in India, half of them being synthetic opiates. And of the 17 tonnes of pure heroin used, eight tonnes are of Afghan origin and nine tonnes are indigenously manufactured.

The report expresses concern for the rising illicit cultivation of opium across India. "In India, the total area under illicit opium cultivation is estimated to be at least 7,500 hectares," it said. In 2010, a total of 1,022 hectares of illicitly cultivated opium poppy were eradicated by anti-narcotics agencies. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime has said that there has been some diversion from the licit opium cultivation too.

It also points out rising trend of prescription drug abuse. India has been blamed for smuggling of these drugs to both its neighbours and western nations. In India, Buprenorphine, pentazocine and sedatives such as diazepam, promethazine and pheniramine are widely abused.

Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert