Opioids worth a staggering Rs 7,500 crore are consumed in Punjab annually, of which heroin's share is Rs 6,500 crore, a new study by AIIMS has found, The Times of India reported.
What is perhaps even more startling is that almost all the heroin that is smuggled into Punjab is through the Pakistan border by the smuggler network which is allegedly aided by the ISI. This is the same smuggler's network which is believed to have been used by the terrorists who attacked the Pathankot airbase, the report states.
Said to be the first of its kind survey by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) at AIIMS, the "Punjab opioid dependence survey: Estimation of the size of opioid dependent population in Punjab" was presented to Punjab health minister Surjit Kumar Jyani on January 6.
The report states that the study also debunks an argument often given by security agencies that the smuggled heroin goes to bigger cities like Delhi via Punjab and that it is not consumed in Punjab. Conducted across 10 districts in the state between February and April 2015, the study states that over 1.23 lakh people are dependent on heroin in a population of around 2.77 crore people.
People dependent on opioid in the state spend approximately Rs 20 crore on these drugs daily, the study states.
The TOI report further states, "Based on the previous studies, Punjab's opioid dependents are four times more than the global average. In effect, not only are the drug smugglers being used to push jihadis into India, they are also creating an army of heroin addicts in Punjab. The study has found that 0.84% (around 2.3 lakh) of the state's population is opioid dependent. It takes into account both opium derivatives as well as artificial substances that have the same effect as opiates on the nervous system."
"We must also note that this survey estimates a much higher number of injecting drug users in Punjab (around 75,000) as compared to the existing estimate (under 20,000). Thus there is a clear threat of explosive epidemic of HIV among injecting drug users in Punjab," Dr Atul Ambekar, lead investigator and the principal author of the survey, is quoted as saying by TOI.