Over 2,300 people died due to drug overdose from 2017-19 in India with the highest number of such fatalities recorded in the age group of 30-45 years, according to the data by the National Crime Records Bureau. A total of 745 deaths due to drug overdose were recorded in 2017, 875 deaths in 2018, and 704 deaths in 2019, it stated.
The highest number of deaths was reported in Rajasthan at 338, followed by Karnataka at 239 and Uttar Pradesh at 236, as per the data.
The highest number of deaths from 2017-19 was recorded in the age group of 30-45 years at 784, it said.
Below the age of 14 years, as many as 55 children died due to drug overdose. Seventy children died in the age group of 14-18 years.
A total of 624 people died in the age bracket of 18-30 years and 550 people died in the age group of 45-60 years due to drug overdose, the data said.
In the age group of 60 and above, 241 people died, it added.
To tackle substance abuse, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment recently launched the ‘Nasha Mukht Bharat Abhiyan’ (NMBA) for 272 most-affected districts. The scheme employs a three-pronged approach -- combining efforts of the narcotics bureau, outreach, and awareness by social justice and treatment through the health department.
A senior official said the NMBA will be further strengthened and continued under the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR), under which 13,000 youth volunteers in 272 districts will be trained as community mobilisers against drug abuse.
He said around 11.80 lakh people would be benefited under the NAPDDR in the financial year 2021-22.
Experts say to tackle the issue of substance abuse the government should be looking into long-term intensive treatment and rehabilitation.
Loon Gangte, regional coordinator for South Asia at the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, said employment opportunities must be provided after rehabilitation.
"It needs to be ensured what happens after rehab rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is the easy path. After rehabilitation, about 80-90 per cent fall back into addiction so there needs to be a plan for it. The government should think beyond rehabilitation. Affected people must be provided employment too which will help in keeping them occupied," Gangte said.
Akhila Sivadas, executive director at the Centre for Advocacy and Research, a non-profit organisation, said to prevent deaths caused by drug overdose, there must intensive treatment including long-term treatment using state of art regimens and methods for those who are into substance usage.
"This issue requires both investment and political will," she added.