According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, over 2,300 people died due to drug overdose from 2017-19 in India, with the highest number of such fatalities reported in the age group of 30-45 years.
A total of 745 drug overdose fatalities were recorded in 2017, 875 fatalities in 2018 and 704 fatalities in 2019, it said.
In Rajasthan, the highest number of deaths was recorded at 338, followed, according to the data, by Karnataka at 239 and Uttar Pradesh at 236.
In the age group of 30-45 years, the highest number of deaths from 2017-19 was reported at 784, it said.
As many as 55 children died from a drug overdose below the age of 14 years. In the 14-18 age range, seventy children died.
A total of 624 individuals died in the 18-30 age range and 550 individuals died due to drug overdose in the 45-60 age group, the data said.
241 individuals died in the age group of 60 and beyond, it said.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment recently initiated the ‘Nasha Mukht Bharat Abhiyan’ (NMBA) for 272 most-affected districts to combat drug abuse. The framework uses a three-pronged approach—combining the opioid bureau’s activities, education and social justice knowledge and care through the health department.
A senior official said the NMBA would be further enhanced and continued under the National Drug Demand Reduction Action Plan (NAPDDR), under which 13,000 youth volunteers will be trained as community anti-drug abuse mobilizers in 272 districts.
He said that in the financial year 2021-22, about 11.80 lakh individuals will benefit under the NAPDDR.
Experts say the government should look at long-term comprehensive counselling and recovery to resolve the problem of drug abuse.
Loon Gangte, the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition’s regional coordinator for South Asia, said job opportunities must be given after recovery.
“It needs to be ensured what happens after rehab rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is the easy path. After rehabilitation, about 80-90 per cent fall back into addiction so there needs to be a plan for it. The government should think beyond rehabilitation. Affected people must be provided employment too which will help in keeping them occupied,” Gangte said.
In order to avoid deaths caused by opioid overdose, Akhila Sivadas, executive director at the Centre for Advocacy and Research, a non-profit organization, said that intensive care, including long-term counselling using state-of-the-art regimens and strategies for those who are into drug use, must be offered.
“This issue requires both investment and political will,” she added.