Interventions and strategies for the prevention of drug abuse in Madhya Pradesh

Dr. G. Shreekumar Menon IRS (Rtd), Ph.D. (Narcotics)

Synthetic drugs

To achieve the vision of Hon’ble Prime Minister of a Drug Free India by 2047, there would be zero tolerance towards drugs. Narcotics Control Bureau would be deployed at key points within and outside the country to contain the drug flow. Initiatives like Darkathon will encourage younger generation to wage a digital war as a mass movement against drug trafficking & addiction. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, at the National Conference on “Drug Trafficking and National Security”, 30 July 2022

Madhya Pradesh, is renowned for the holy city of Ujjain, and according to the Surya Siddhanta, a 4th-century astronomical treatise, Ujjain is geographically situated at the precise spot where the zero meridian of longitude and the Tropic of Cancer intersect. This is why it is considered as the navel of the earth. The Tropic of Cancer is important because, as the earth revolves around the sun, this latitude marks the northernmost position at which the sun can be seen directly overhead. The Tropic of Cancer crosses the spire of the Mahakal Temple in Ujjain, as it does at the Somnath Temple in Gujarat. This imaginary line is also said to pass through Ujjain’s temple of Mangalnath, considered in Hindu cosmogony to be the birthplace of Mangal (Mars) and the closest point from Earth to Mars. When a Panchang or horoscope as per the Hindu almanac is drawn up, it is always based on Ujjain time (roughly 29 minutes behind IST).  Additionally, it was here in Ujjain that the legendary king Vikramaditya defeated the Sakas and started a new era, the Vikram Samvat or the Ujjain calendar, around 58–56 B.C. Ujjain is located in the Malwa region which also hosts other famous cities like Indore, Bhopal, Khandwa, Ratlam, and Neemuch. Malwa is celebrated in History for the famous Malwa Opium that addicted millions of Chinese, and the disintegration of the Chinese Qing dynasty as a result of the Opium Wars. The man who enabled this trade from Malwa to China and rose to become one of the wealthiest in the world was Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, a Parsee trader. Malwa Opium gave him the honour of being the first Indian to be Knighted (1842) and the first to be made a Baronet (1857).

This once famed Malwa region, in almost a Karmic like retribution, after more than a century and a half, after the Opium Wars, is today grappling with the spectre of severe drug addiction, as 15 Districts have been identified by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) as being afflicted by the drug menace, namely – Indore, Bhopal, Ujjain, Mandsaur, Neemuch, Jabalpur, Chhindwara, Narsinghpur, Hoshangabad, Ratlam, Gwalior, Satna, Sagar, Datia and Rewa. Apart from this, Vidisha, Pipariya and Agar-Malwa areas are also in the grip of the drug menace. There is no need to check Panchang, as the fate of youngsters have literally gone up in Cannabis smoke or totally disoriented by consumption of synthetic drugs.

Photo courtesy social media

The subject of drug abuse among youth in our society is a major concern in our nation and the world as a whole. In the recent past there has been significant increase in the number of youth who abuse various drugs that are readily available in the market, leading to the conclusion that Madhya Pradesh is an “apparently endangered State” where statistics from health and social workers indicate a rising trend in the number of people and drugs abused. This is a major cause of concern for many parents, educational institutions, local authority, Police and the government as they grapple for an answer to this problem.

Drug seizure (Representative image)

The youth are a special risk category when it comes to drug abuse. The population of this group, not only in Madhya Pradesh, but also in the country, with inadequacy of social services, educational and employment opportunities and recreational facilities bears the brunt of this problem. The seriousness of the drug abuse problem in our society cannot be underestimated and the disturbing statistics are an outcry for action to be taken on a priority basis.

Young people are the backbone of any nation. It is unfortunate that these youth are the same population that is worst affected by the problem of drug abuse. The future of our nation is uncertain if the youth who have the potential to work and lead will succumb to substance abuse and other addictions. Swami Vivekananda gave much importance to the role of youth in nation building? He believed that youth is the foundation of the country and that they are a great asset to any nation as they are full of energy, enthusiasm and innovative ideas. He called for channelizing their energy in the right direction so that they can drive the country on the path of progress. Swami Vivekananda was once quoted saying “This wonderful period of the first state of your life is related to you as the soft wet clay in the hands of the potter. Skillfully the potter gives it the right and correct shapes and forms, which he intends to give. Even so, you can wisely mould your life, your character, your physical health and strength, in short your entire nature in any way in which you make up your mind to do. And you must do this now.” But, most unfortunately, youth of today are being moulded by drug traffickers and peddlers. What is the connection between youth and drug abuse which is raising concern and questions like: Why are young people at risk of drug abuse? Why do young people use drugs? What is wrong with doing drugs? A fear is often being expressed that if the same trend of youth on drugs continues for another decade, then the country will lose a whole generation. Can we afford this loss? What will be the future of the nation if a bulk of its young citizens are slaves of narcotic drugs?

Substance use and abuse by young people, and problems associated with this behaviour have been a part of human history for a long time. What is different today is increased availability of a wide variety of intoxicating drugs or substances and the declining age at which experimentation with these drugs or substances take place (WHO, 2005:45). Today’s youth are abusing a lot of synthetic drugs like MDMA or Ecstasy, Ketamine, and Amphetamine, which tend to produce a craving for repeated sensations provided by these drugs.

What starts of as a small group of abusers soon becomes a wave, affecting a wide cross-section of youth and society. Large scale drug consumption and trafficking in communities often lead to a breakdown of the social fabric and social disorders. Such developments can lead to anxiety, hopelessness or anger in communities, which in turn can lead to political consequences and possible conflict. Social problems like poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, population explosion, communalism, secularism, regionalization, youth unrest and agitation, child abuse, prostitution, teenage pre-marital sex, violence against women, crimes and criminals, juvenile delinquency, alcoholism, all get enhanced as the number of drug addicted youths swell in ranks. Young girls between the ages of 12 to 14 years are often lured into hotels and private villas where they are drugged and sexually exploited after being lured by promises of glamourous careers in films and fashion modelling. Havens include closely guarded and secluded villas, beauty parlours, massage parlours and lodgings. Madhya Pradesh has been witnessing a lot of alcoholism. According to the NFHS (National Family Health Survey – 5) statistics released in April 2022, India is the world’s ninth-largest consumer of all alcohol. It is the second-largest consumer of spirits (whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, tequila, liqueurs), behind China. India consumes more than 663 million liters of alcohol, up 11% from 2017.  India consumes more whiskey than any other country in the world – about three times more than the US, which is the next biggest consumer. Nearly one in every two bottles of whiskey brought around the world is now sold in India. 

Nearly 150 million adults (15 years and above) in India (10% of all adults) drink Alcohol, according to the NFHS Survey 2021.  As per the findings from NFHS (National Family Health Survey-5), Alcohol consumption amongst adult women (15 years & above) is at 1.3%, and for adult men (15 years & above) is at 18.8%. Alcohol is the medium through which all kinds of synthetic drugs are ingested. Seizures of synthetic drugs in Madhya Pradesh, have raised even international concerns.

In September 2018, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) with the help of a team of scientists from Defence Research & Development Establishment busted an illegal laboratory in Indore and recovered 9 kg of a deadly synthetic opioid, Fentanyl that could have potentially killed 4-5 million people. Run by a local businessman and a “US-hating” PhD “scholar chemist”, the fentanyl seizure, first in India, has raised security concerns in Delhi as the chemical can cause large-scale casualties if used in chemical warfare, a scenario reminiscent of the plot in Alistair Maclean’s thriller “Satan Bug”. A Mexican national was also arrested, indicating the involvement of foreign nationals. The value of the seizure was estimated at Rs.110 crores. There are Intelligence reports that many Mexican drug cartels are shifting operations into India, as the Chinese have intensified crackdown on illegal synthetic drug manufacturers.

Representative Image

Another major seizure effected in April 2022 in Indore, relates to the recovery of 151 kilograms of synthetic drugs, worth Rs.15 crores, by the Police. The drugs were being manufactured at a poultry feed production unit at RNT Marg area, using Alprazolam and Paracetamol tablets, and other narcotic substances procured from Delhi and Muzaffarpur. The drugs were given to peddlers for distribution in Mandsaur, Bhopal, Gwalior, Jabalpur and Sagar.

Ecstasy or MDMA worth 70 crores was seized at Indore in January 2021. The drugs were manufactured in Telangana and was brought to Indore for onward shipment to South Africa, when Police intercepted the consignment.

Indore is a major pharmaceutical hub, and over 76 businesses are functioning here. More than 350 pharmaceutical industries are spread across Madhya Pradesh. Indore’s Dawa Bazar is one of Asia’s biggest pharmaceutical trade houses, where apart from wholesale and retail outlets of small manufacturers of the cluster, multinational and other big companies have marketing offices.

There are nearly 121 Pharmacy colleges in Madhya Pradesh, and every year around thousands of students graduate. These qualified pharmacists can be lured by unscrupulous manufacturers to produce synthetic drugs. The Police and other enforcement agencies need to maintain a data base of graduating pharmacists, to ensure that illegal drugs are not manufactured clandestinely.

India’s booming pharmaceutical and precursor exports, combined with its scientific expertise and manufacturing capabilities, may present significant challenges for authorities in exercising controls over the diversion, clandestine manufacture and trafficking of precursor chemicals.


The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) in Global Drugs Assessment 2020, explains that India has the fourth largest quantities of opium seized in 2020 at 5.2 tons and the third-highest amount of morphine was also seized in the same year at 0.7 tons. About 3.8 tons of heroin were seized in 2020 in India, the fifth-highest in the world. In 2020, authorities in India had announced for the first time dismantling of a major international criminal network trafficking non-medical tramadol and other psychoactive substances on the dark web.

  • Trafficking of Amphetamine type stimulants (ATS) precursors from India remains significant, with key trafficking destinations including countries in Africa, East and South-East Asia, Oceania and the Near and Middle East.
  • Seizures of other synthetic drug precursors including N-acetylanthranilic acid, N-phenethyl-4-piperidone (NPP) and 2-bromo-4-chloropropiophenone trafficked from or within India were also reported.

Taking into account the enormous challenge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cautioned youth on drug addiction. Addressing the National Cadet Corps rally in New Delhi on January 28th 2020, the Prime Minister exhorted to the cadets “You know very well how much drug addiction ruins our young generation. Drugs cannot reach schools and colleges where NCC-NSS are deployed. As a cadet, you yourself should be free from drugs, as well as make your campus free from drugs”.

Madhya Pradesh should lead the nation’s fight against drugs by launching a ‘ZERO DRUGS ON CAMPUS’ campaign. NCC is a great platform to launch an anti-drugs drive on every campus and NSS is a platform that can be used to rehabilitate the unfortunate victims grappling with drug addiction.

It is alleged that OPIUM plants mysteriously catch fire every year and tons of opium burns (only on paper) and the acutal output reaches the blackmarket. This calls for thorough investigation to counter any false propaganda.

This writer is of the considered view that Madhya Pradesh can open a new chapter in the fight against drugs by establishing an exclusive Ministry of Drugs, Security & Counter-Narcotics Policies to assess the nature and extent of drug abuse and related issues among the youth; assess the level and sources of knowledge and awareness on drug abuse and related issues among the youth; investigate demographic factors contributing to drug abuse; investigate social-cultural factors contributing to drug abuse; investigate economic factors contributing to drug abuse; analyze the effects of drug abuse; devise policies to tackle the challenges faced in the fight against drug abuse; identify structural drivers of the illicit drug economy; initiate counter-narcotics policies including eradication, interdiction, alternative livelihoods, and demand reduction efforts. 

His holiness, the Dalai Lama delivered a message for the Himachal Pradesh Police’s Anti-Drug Campaign for Indian Youth, which is worthy to reproduce “These young people lack knowledge or experience on how to bring inner peace. So they rely on tranquilizers, drugs. The drugs are physically harmful, including too much alcohol”. The Dalai Lama said that he was a devout advocate of the Nalanda School of thoughts, and said that India was at a unique vantage point in that it was the repository of ancient knowledge, and it is only a matter of its revival in the country. The Dalai Lama said that cultivation of inner peace should be brought to schools as a secular subject devoid of religious connotations to cater to a common template. He said such culture can have trickledown effect in terms of controlling the trends of excessively relying on drugs and alcohols to find peace. He said that it was only modern India that has neglected its ancient treasures, and only India can make “significant contribution” by reviving it. This is exactly what Prime Minister Narendra Modi is attempting to do, and all Indians should cooperate to make his endeavours a success.

The author, Dr G Shreekumar Menon, is Former Director General, National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes & Narcotics (NACIN)

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