This article is part of a joint public health initiative by Sify.com and the author.
Addiction, or Substance Use Disorder as it is now described, is India’s biggest blind spot. To varying degrees, people are able to understand the state of India’s environment, politics, gender relations, economy, religious freedom, sports, and general health.
But addiction is still a puzzle although the number of Indians affected by it is increasingly silently and significantly. Here are 10 aspects of addiction in India you might therefore want to be aware of.
1. No one knows how many Indians are addicted.
New Delhi still goes by the numbers from a 2001-2002 national survey. It said about 7.32 crore Indians used alcohol and other drugs – 6.25 crore were drinkers, 87 lakh used cannabis [marijuana, hashish], and 20 lakh used opium and its derivatives.
Of the 6.25 crore Indians who used alcohol in 2001-2002, about 1.06 crore were addicted to it [17% according to the survey]. Of the 87 lakh cannabis users, 22.6 lakh were addicted [26%]. And of the 20 lakh opium users, 4.4 lakh were addicted. These were big numbers.
Here’s the thing though: No one in the world of addiction recognises statistics that are 10 years old. In the India of 2013, we don’t know how many need help. All we know is that the numbers have accelerated.
2. Addiction is not notified as a disease in India.
In 1956, when Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister, the American Medical Association [AMA] declared alcoholism as an illness that can and should be treated within the medical profession. In 1989, when Rajiv Gandhi’s term as prime minister was nearing its end, the AMA declared addiction involving other drugs, including nicotine, to be a disease.
The World Health Organisation also recognises addiction as a disease. In the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association recognises more forms of addiction as a disease.
India, however, does not term addiction as a disease. Consequently, addiction treatment is not recognised as medical care; addiction care and medical practice are disconnected. This lends a casual and non-serious air to the challenge.
Image: A file shot of a person smoking hash.