NEW DELHI : Even as the Punjab Government tried to deny the drug menace in the state, its own health department was involved in a shocking survey by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) showing the problem much worse than one projected in the Shahid Kapoor-starer Bollywood movie Udta Punjab.

The survey put the daily spend of the opioid dependents in the state to Rs 20 crore that works out to Rs 7,300 crore per annum in buying the drugs in the state. The report of the survey conducted during 2014 has come at a time when the Congress has mounted a state-wide campaign against the Akali DAl-BJP government for doing nothing to control the drug menace ruining most of the youths in the state.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has already condemned the study as an attempt to “malign” Punjab by blowing up the data collected in the “random samples.” The study was commissioned by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and carried out by the Society for Promotion of Youth & Masses, the researchers from the AIIMS’ National Dependence Treatment Centre and the Punjab Health Department.

Punjab Congress President and former CM Captain Amarinder Singh asserted that the study is correct as it has been done by the country’s premier institute and that too with the collaboration of the state”s health department. “The Badals should take a dope test as they are the ones responsible for the problem,” he said.

“The researchers spoke to 3,620 opioid (heroin) dependents across 10 districts and found that 70% of them were in the age group of 18 to 35 and 99% of them being married males,” the study report said. The survey was carried out in the districts of Jalandhar, Patiala, Kapurthala, Sangrur, Tarn Taran, Matiala, Moga, Ferozepur, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur, constituting 60% of the state’s population.

The study says 89% of the opioid dependents are literate and 21% of them farmers, 27% farm labourers and 15% businessmen.

Other 14% are transport workers moving on trucks and 13% skilled workers, while students and the government employees, including cops, constitute the remaining 10%.

Extrapolating the survey figures, the study claimed there are 8.6 lakh opioid users in Punjab, 2.33 lakh of whom have become dependents of heroin, the most widely used opioid in the state.  “Data suggests that among 18-35 age group of men in Punjab, four in every 100 are opioid dependents and 15 of 100 could be opioid users,” the study said while hinting at a flourishing illegal opioid drug market in the state.

“On an average, a heroin using individual spends about Rs 1400 per day on drugs.

This figure is considerably lower for opium users (Rs 340 per day) an pharmaceutical opioid users (Rs 265 per day,” the study said.

The most commonly used drug in Punjab these days is heroin (53%), followede by opium which includes poppy husk (33%) and pharmaceutical opioid (14%).

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