The South Asian region comprises the following countries, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Regional profile

South Asia is home to an estimated one-quarter of the world’s population. The countries of the region differ considerably in levels of development with marked socioeconomic differences within some of the countries. With a steady improvement in many human development indicators, South Asia has experienced a remarkable growth rate over the past decade. This has led, though unevenly, to a rise in the standard of living for many in the region.

The increase in access to disposable income, the influx of new cultural influences, and the breakdown of some traditional social structures due to the steadily growing economy in the region, are reasons to predict a rise in drug consumption in South Asia. Recent reports and surveys point to a sharp increase in injecting drug use, particularly among young people. Young people who use drugs are also more likely to commit crimes as they are pushed to the margins of society. The relationship between illicit drugs, dealing in arms and financing of terrorism is both established and of specific concern in the region.

South Asia is situated in the neighbourhood of the two major opium-cultivating regions of the world. The exponential increase, in 2007, of opium cultivation in Afghanistan followed by a massive increase in drug exports from that country, has increased the availability of illicitly produced opiates in South Asia. Of additional serious concern are the increased misuse of pharmaceutical preparations and the illicit diversion of precursor chemicals which, together, pose a challenge to effective drug control in the region.

Most of the countries in the region do not have a formal policy on drugs. As a result of continued deliberations and enhanced knowledge on the issue of drugs and drug users, the Indian government is drafting a national drug policy, a process initiated by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.