Drug abuse and crimes: can the society break this connection with the help of laws

drug abuse

Addiction and drug-related crimes are India’s harshest social problems. As per the report of UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Ministry of Social Justice, millions of Indians are dependent on psychotropic substances such as alcohol, cannabis and the like, which makes drug abuse a pervasive phenomenon in Indian society. It is an age-old phenomenon which first leads its victims to face stigmatization and ostracization from society and then the contemporary legal structures impact their welfare and health. This epidemic of drug abuse has assumed an alarming growth in the young generation of India and the laws are unable to deal with these cases. In this article we would deal with what Drug Abuse essentially is and how can laws be made and used to placate their effects.

What is Drug Abuse?

Drug abuse or substance-use-disorder is a pattern of using a psychotropic substance that leads to significant problems which are always self-destructive in nature. It is a condition characterized by using a substance that leads to significant physical and psychological problems.

Drug Abuse has a variety of symptoms and signs which varies with the drug being used. Such symptoms can include aggression, irritability, personality changes, depression, poor physical coordination, sleep cycle disorders and the like.

In a survey conducted by the Ministry of Social Justice, a sizeable number of individuals were found to be using Psychotropic drugs and substances which was about 1.08% of 10-75-year-old Indians (approximately 1.18 crore people) of the Indian population. The report also stated that Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat were the top five states using drugs in form of sedatives of Inhalants.

How does Drug Abuse Develop?

There’s a fine line between regular drug use and drug abuse and therefore it becomes extremely difficult to identify when does normal drug use develops into drug abuse. While frequency or the amount does not necessarily constitute drug abuse, it is an indicator that there could be some drug-related problems. There are certain situations wherein this transition occurs and it is as follows,

When a drug fulfils a valuable need, it becomes a relying factor in life. It becomes a mechanism to calm or energize oneself and it is during this time when a person starts abusing prescription drugs to relieve pain, cope with panic attacks and the like thereby crossing the line from casual drug use to drug abuse.

Drug abuse may also start as a way to socially connect. In majority cases, a victim gets to know of a drug for the first time in social situations with friends. A desire to fit into the society can also give way to succumb to drug abuse.

As drug abuse takes hold, it starts deteriorating a person both mentally and physically. It inhibits a person’s ability which eventually leads to its compromise and the drug becomes a physical and psychological need.

It is through these steps Drug Abuse creeps into a person’s life and consumes it, thereby stopping social and intellectual development and ultimately leads to a feeling of isolation.

What types of drugs do people commonly overuse in India?

In India individuals abuse almost any substance which gives them a “kick” or a feeling of tranquillity. While abuse of substances like alcohol, marijuana or cocaine is quite common, there are also some lesser-known substances like inhalants made from thinners, cough syrups and even balms which have become commonly abused substances. Hereunder are a few drugs and psychotropic substance which people commonly abuse:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol is a toxic substance which is one of the most common addictions in India and can have devastating effects on an individual’s physical well-being, as well as his or her ability at work. There are about 16 crore Indians who consume alcohol with States like Chhattisgarh, Tripura and Punjab being its major consumers.
  • Cannabis: After Alcohol, Cannabis is the next most commonly used substances in India. About 3.1 crore individuals have admitted using any cannabis in one form or the other like bhang, ganja and the like. Usually called marijuana, it is the most commonly used illicit drug, with states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab having its prevalence.
  • Inhalants: In India, they are the most commonly abused substances due to its easy availability, which are usually available in household cleaners, bleach, nail polish remover, thinner and other substances that emit fumes when subjected to heat. In India, approximately 77 lakh users have reported using Inhalants in one form or the other and it majorly affects the North-Eastern part of the Country.
  • Opioids: Also known as narcotics these substances include drugs like opium, heroin, codeine, pharma opioids, morphine and the like. It directly affects the nervous system of a human being and decreases it significantly which in extreme cases leads to death. Almost 2.26 crore individuals use such psychotropic substances. Sikkim has the highest prevalence of opioid use in India.

Laws relating to Drug Abuse in India

In 1930, the Dangerous Drugs Act was enacted to strengthen control over drugs derived from coca, cannabis and the like by regulating their cultivation, possession, manufacture and sale. The framework continues to prevail in the current legislation, giving definitions for various psychotropic substances like coca, opium, hemp, etc.

Later the Drugs and Cosmetics Act was adopted in 1940 to regulate the manufacturing and sale of medicinal drugs including cannabis and opium. With the adoption of the Indian Constitution in 1950, Drug Laws got a completely new dimension by virtue of Article 47 which specifically states that State must bring about prohibition of the consumption of drugs except for medicinal purposes. Even under the Directive Principles of State Policy provisions for drug policies are justified. The Constitution also placed matters of “Drugs and poisons” in the concurrent list, allowing both centre and states to legislate.

India is a party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Following these, the Indian Parliament passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 replacing the Opium Acts and the Dangerous Drugs Act. It was enacted in order to provide adequate penalties for drug trafficking, strengthen enforcement powers, implement international conventions to which India was a party, and enforce controls over psychotropic substances. Certain amendments were made in the Act, in 1989, 2001 and more recently in 2014. The Act prohibits cultivation, production, sale, purchase, and consumption of psychotropic substances except for medical needs.

Though being predominantly punitive in nature, the Act also holds provisions to regulate drugs manufacturing and sale. It empowers the central and state governments to frame rules and authorize drug-related activities for medical and scientific purposes. This way India has formulated and enacted various statutes starting with the constitution to manage and control Drug Abuse, punish the violators and most importantly placate the effects of substance abuse in the country.

Steps taken by appropriate authorities in cases of Drug Abuse

India is witnessing a sudden rise in the cases of drug abuse and for this reason, both the Central and State Governments are trying to take strict measures to control such acts of abuse and freed Indian youths of its clutches. Some of the major steps taken by the Indian Authorities are as follows:

1. Ministry of Social Justice has issued an advisory which advises the states to prepare an Action Plan, for sensitization and preventive education programmes in schools and college to make the Indian youth aware of the consequences of Drug Abuse.

2. The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is celebrated on 26th June every year to sensitize the people about the ill effects of drug abuse.

3. Scheme for Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drug) Abuse has been established by the central government which provides financial assistance for running and maintaining Rehabilitation Centres for Addicts.

4. Several de-addiction centres have been established by the Central Government to help the victims of Drug Abuse and bring them out of their abused states.

5. Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment undertakes a National level Survey in collaboration with the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, AIIMS, and New Delhi to estimate the number of individuals who are suffering from substance use disorders.


Drug Abuse is a complex problem that affects its victim’s life in totality. Overcoming addiction requires major changes which in itself affects every aspect of a victim’s life. Considering the contemporary Indian conditions harm reduction principles to drug policy are the only way to curb out Substance Abuse from our society. As of now, the authorities should aim at the implementation of strategies to curb the demand for drugs. More interventions strategies and models, which considers the drug-dependent person as a victim and not an offender should be implemented, in order to reduce the overall impact on the issue of drug addiction.

A number of different prevention approaches should be made by the legislature to decrease the risk of drug use disorder. Designing research-based preventive programs to meet the specific needs of the society would also contribute to curbing out the menace of drug abuse. It is still not late for us to take actions against the evil of drug abuse and if things go well it could easily be curbed out of the society.

Edited by Shikhar Shrivastava

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje 


1. NCBI, India has widespread drug problem, report says, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC443486/(last visited Feb. 7, 2020, 6.33PM).

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3. Tripti Tandon, Drug Policy in India, International Drug Policy Consortium, https://idhdp.com/media/400258/idpc-briefing-paper_drug-policy-in-india.pdf(last visited Feb. 7, 2020, 6.33PM).

4. Ministry of Social Justice, Government of India, Magnitutde of Substance Use in India 2019, http://socialjustice.nic.in/writereaddata/UploadFile/Magnitude_Substance_Use_India_REPORT.pdf(last visited Feb. 7, 2020, 6.33PM).

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I am Pratyush Pandey, a law student from the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala. I am the third generation in my family to be in the legal academia and aspire to serve the legal fraternity. As of now, I have an interest in the field of Constitutional and Family Law. Also, I have a great interest in writing, mooting and speedcubing.