The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Myths fuel drug abuse in Punjab

Chandigarh, April 13: Myths about boosting libido and sexual potency, coupled with the easy availability of a plethora of “performance enhancers” and aphrodisiacs, are enticing Punjabis from all strata of society to take to drugs in a big way.

Confirming the findings of a WHO survey of nearly 5,000 persons between 16 and 25 in the state, a recent study has warned that substance abuse is seeping into the vitals of Punjabi society. WHO had said every third male and every tenth female student in Punjab was hooked on to some drug or the other.

The study by the Institute of Development and Communication (IDC), an NGO, at the behest of the planning department has established that a majority of drug abusers — 70 per cent — are in the rural areas. It reveals that a growing number of people hooked on opium and poppy husk believe that they trigger an enhanced “performance”. The urban slums accounted for 49 per cent of substance abuse in the cities.

Topping the charts are labourers (24.8 per cent) and farmers (23.5 per cent) followed by students (16.2 per cent). While students took to drugs for the “thrill”, labourers and farmers thought drugs enhanced their sexual prowess and ability to do physical labour.

The survey — Substance Abuse in Punjab — covered 4,300 drug addicts in eight districts of Punjab. Sixty per cent of the rural youths hooked on drugs said they procured the contraband from the village chemist.

These addicts and potential drug-users have another channel for procuring their dose — an increasing number of women are turning into drug peddlers and even doubling as sex workers, especially in villages. In Amritsar, three nurses are reported to be selling drugs on the side. The study also talks about a village prostitute in Patiala who introduces his ‘clients’ to opium with the lure of enhancing their virility.

In the cities, these “fix-it solution” pills are disappearing fast from the shelves of chemists’, raising worries about increasing substance abuse among the Punjabi youth. “I can understand boys and girls taking to liquor because it has become synonymous with Punjab’s culture. As far as hard drugs are concerned, it is an alarming situation,” a doctor said.

A senior government official said apart from drugs, glossy advertisements of herbal wonders and performance enhancers were adding to the problem. “The sale of these ‘medicines’ too needs to be monitored.”

Commenting on the components that go into the making of the “magic” herbal pills, a Chandigarh doctor said: “Prolonged use of these drugs can be fatal. Herbal medicines have become a rage in the West, triggering the mushrooming of all possible kinds of ayurvedic potents (sic) in India.”

“Besides mercury and lead, some even claim to have traces of gold and silver. Since one does not take a doctor’s advice before buying these drugs, they end up doing more harm than good,” his colleague added.

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