India: 160 Million Alcohol Users
Alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used by Indians followed by cannabis and opioids, according to new findings from the national household survey conducted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2018. In a population of more than one billion inhabitants, this is still a low number of alcohol use prevalence, but it is rising and per capita use among alcohol consumers is worryingly high.
Social Justice and Empowerment minister Thawar Chand Gehlot said over 16 crore (160 million) people in the country consume alcohol, around 3.1 crore use Cannabis and about 77 lakh people take opioids. More than 5.7 crore alcohol users, 72 lakh cannabis users and about 77 lakh opioid users are addicted and need help, according to the minister, per reports from the Business Standard.
The report establishes that a substantial number of people use psychoactive substances in India and the substance use exists in all the population groups with adult men bearing the brunt of substance use disorders,” Gehlot said.
The household survey covered all the 36 states and union territories of India and was conducted in collaboration with the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), ten other medical institutes and a network of 15 NGOs. During the survey over two lakh households were visited in 186 districts of the country and a total of 4,73,569 individuals were interviewed.
The minister also said the government was conducting a survey in ten cities across the country to assess the pattern and profile of substance use among school and college students.
Action needed to prevent and reduce harm from psychoactive substances
Elaborating on various actions being taken by the government to curb the drug addiction crisis, Gehlot said the government has prepared a National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) for the period 2018-2025. As part of the NAPDDR, the ministry is undertaking focussed intervention programmes in 127 high risk districts.
In May 2019, IOGT International reported that the burden of alcohol in India costs the country’s economy more than the entire spending on health by the Indian government.
A new study, recently published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, had found that after adjusting for tax receipts from the alcohol sale, the economic loss from adverse effects of alcohol consumption is about 1.45% of the gross domestic product (GDP). For comparison, the government’s annual expenditure on health is about 1.1% of the GDP.
The Healthy India Alliance, including several Indian member organizations of IOGT International, have issued an urgent call for multi-sectoral alcohol policy action in India to tackle the heavy burden of alcohol harm.
Currently, India does not have a national alcohol law and written national alcohol policy. The World Health Organization recommends action to protect the right of people to live free from alcohol and to maintain alcohol abstention rates as important measures to promote health and development for all.