DRUGS: AN UNENDING GLOBAL MENACE
Drugs have been around us from time immemorial. Truth be told, cannabis being the most seasoned drug was found in the third millennium in Japan. In the fourteenth century, the Islamic faction set down limitations on its use, making it the first limitation. By the mid-twentieth century, international organisations came forward and banned drugs and psychotropic substances.
In the United States, during the civil war, opium and morphine were used as medicine. This ultimately led to war veterans becoming addicts and thus it was termed as soldiers’ disease.
Looking at India, drugs have been associated with the Hindu God Shiva. A practice that has been followed for years now is that the devotees of shiva consume bhang, which is the edible form of cannabis. It is believed that Shiva once had a quarrel with his family and went into the field to get some natural air. While on the field, he smelt a fragrance that assisted him with alleviating his pressure. In the later years, sages and rishis used this to gain spirituality. Even the Atharva Veda speaks about cannabis and Ayurveda recognizes cannabis as one of the five sacred plants.
Drugs are categorized into three classes, namely:
Hallucinogens: Hallucinogens are substances that make an individual perceive things that don't exist or they may see them in a misshaped way. Most hallucinogens are synthetics like LSD, PCP, mushrooms and so forth.
Depressants: These substances diminish reaction time. It hinders the sensory system, consequently reacting gradually or in an impeded way. Liquor and cannabis are examples of depressants.
Stimulants: While depressants hinder the sensory system, stimulants expand the individual's mindfulness. It stimulates the central nervous system. Caffeine, nicotine, MDMA are examples.
Drug control in India was started as early as 1857 through the Opium Act. This enactment was designed to regulate the use of opium. It was a very short enactment and did not talk about other drugs. The main drawback of this act was that there was no punishment prescribed for the possession of drugs. The NARCOTIC DRUGS AND PSYCHOTROPIC SUBSTANCES Act of 1985 replaced the Opium Act. In fact, the NARCOTIC DRUGS AND PSYCHOTROPIC SUBSTANCES Act was designed to fulfil the three treatises India was a signatory to.
The three treatises came into effect in 1961, 1971 and 1990 respectively. Each time the treaty was modified with changes in the society.
The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, dealt mainly with the production and distribution of opium, coca and cannabis. After the discovery of other psychotropic substances, this treaty became obsolete.
As a replacement, in 1971, The Convention on Psychotropic Substances came into force. This treaty placed a ban on the newly discovered psychotropic substances. The Convention restricts the import, export and use of these drugs. Yet it could be used for medicinal or scientific purposes. The last treaty, The United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances,1990, is designed to provide an additional mechanism for enhancing the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances.
Reasons to use drugs
The English proverb ‘curiosity kills the cat’ is apt when it comes to the use of drugs. What gets going as interest would wind up as a habit. There are different reasons why an individual would utilize drugs. A portion of the reasons are:
To fit in
Man is by nature a social animal. He lives in a society in which his actions correspond to the opinions of others. More often than not, addicts are acquainted with substances through their companions. In the event that the individual denies utilizing of the substance, he might be ridiculed, mugged and teased. If the person accepts, then the use of the substance would start as just an experiment and end up in drug dependence.
Influence of the media
TV shows and movies have a huge influence on our lives. We are impacted by their food, attire, language and so forth. In our case, we need to look at the importance of drugs in the protagonist's life. The use of the substance would make the protagonist the ‘cool guy’ or ‘bad guy’. On an average, one out of five movies depict the utilization of drugs. What the eyes see is what is believed and thus, people evaluate drugs as a style statement.
Recombinant Human Erythropoietin, Ephedrine, Steroids, Ethanol, Cannabis and Creatin are the drugs that are used by sportspersons. Players use these drugs to enhance their performance, kill pain or act as a sedative. These are mostly stimulants and help sports persons perform better.
Stress and source of enjoyment
Amongst young adults, stress and enjoyment are the two principal motivations to use drugs. Pressure to get good marks, job, salary and the stress which comes with the job is a contributing factor. The usage of drugs on weekdays would be to reduce stress, but the same drug would be used on weekends as a source of enjoyment.
Need for such a legislation
To reduce usage
Enacting a law would acquire a set of rules administering the utilization of drugs. As the legislation consists of punishments, a considerable number of people would refrain from using drugs.
Drugs have a bad effect on the user's health. Retarded thinking, cancer, mental illness, collapsed veins, infections etc are a major concern. The health of the user degrades with time and, finally, it will turn lethal. It affects the physical as well as mental health of the user and their families.
Possible reasons for committing crimes
Under the influence of substances, an individual is at a higher risk of committing crimes. Drug abuse and addiction are the root cause of 21% of crimes. In the US alone, 30% of rape cases and sexual assault are committed under the influence of drugs. Under the influence of hallucinogens and depressants, the hindrance of the brain or the inadequacy to think straight is the fundamental cause.
Illegal source of income
Income created from selling drugs is unaccounted for. There is no bank transaction involved. The liquid cash that is used, amounts to black money. In fact, the drug trade is a global black market.
To bring in a form of regime to curb the use amongst young adults
The tendency of young adults to involve themselves in the usage of drugs is exceptionally high due to peer pressure. As we all know, usage of drugs is injurious to health. In this manner, checking the utilization of substances amongst young adults would do good for future generations.
Features of the act
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act came into force on 16th September 1985. It is an act to make stringent provisions for control and regulation of drugs and to implement provisions of international conventions. The main features of the act are:
The act applies to the whole of India and also to citizens outside India and to persons on ships and aircraft which have been registered in India.
The act defines cannabis, coca, and opium to bring a reasonable picture regarding what establishes a drug and what doesn’t.
The central government has the power to add or omit psychotropic substances which are mentioned in any international convention or if they have reason to believe that such a drug is psychotropic in nature.
The central government can take all measures necessary to prevent and combat the abuse of drugs and its trafficking. The central government can enlist the assistance of various officers, state governments, and other authorities, including foreign governments and authorities.
To identify, treat, educate, rehabilitate addicts
The central government can constitute an authority to exercise its powers
The central government can appoint a narcotics commissioner and other officers who would work under the commissioner.
To curb the use of drugs, the central government must constitute an advisory committee and other committees for the same purpose.
A fund can be formed by the central government to combat traffic, control, identify, treat, rehabilitate, educate and to supply drugs to addicts, which is a medical necessity.
The funds are received from the central government, private institutions and individuals and the proceeds received from the sale of forfeited property.
The central government must publish a report giving an account of the activities financed at the end of each financial year.
No person shall cultivate coca, opium or any other drug except for medicinal or scientific purposes.
No person shall convert or transfer any property knowing that such property is derived from an offence committed under this act or any other act of any other country.
The central government has the power to permit, control and regulate the cultivation of coca, opium and poppy straw.
The central government prescribes the form of license for cultivation
No drug can be attached for recovery of money.
Under the act, the metropolitan magistrate or magistrate of first-class or magistrate of second class, any officer of the customs, narcotics or revenue has the power to issue warrants and authorization. The procedure laid down under the criminal procedure code for the issue of warrants, arrest, search, seizure applies here as well.
If any person has reason to believe that there is illegal cultivation of drugs, then he must inform the police. If the same is not informed then he shall be punished
Punishments and amendments
Under the act, chapter IV throws light on the penalties. The act mentions the quantity of drugs that a person must be in possession of, for it to be an offence under this act.
Every drug has a different value and falls into two categories, namely, small quantity and commercial quantity.
Before the amendment in 2014, the punishment prescribed for possession of drugs in small quantities was 6 months of imprisonment. After the amendment, the punishment was increased to 1 year with a fine of Rs.10,000.
Rigorous imprisonment for a period of up to 10 years and a fine of 1 lakh is the punishment for a person who has a quantity larger than small quantity but lesser than the commercial quantity.
For possession of drugs more than the commercial quantity, the punishment prescribed is rigorous imprisonment for at least 10 years, but not surpassing 20 years.
The amendment of 2014 also removed the death penalty for repeated offenders and reduced it to 30 years of imprisonment.
Lastly, the amendments relaxed the restrictions on drugs like morphine, fentanyl and methadone, making them easily accessible as a pain killer.
Poorly thought legislation
A person who is accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Circumstances may put an individual in a place where he shouldn’t be or doesn’t belong. A significant downside under the act is that under section 19,24.27A and those crimes relating to commercial quantities of drugs can not apply for bail.
More often than not, we see drugs being sold at every corner of the road or in a confined spot. The drugs that are peddled in this manner are in small quantities. For various reasons, these cases aren’t reported often. The investigators are concentrating their efforts on the larger transactions. Customs checking is an example of this.
In the act, there is no difference between hard and soft drugs. Both drugs are treated in the same manner and the punishment is the same. Heroin, being a hard drug, is much more dangerous than opium in the natural form. This is a major drawback.
Alcohol falls in the category of depressants along with cannabis and opiates. Alcohol reduces or retards a person’s movement as alcohol slows down the response time. This implies that liquor influences your focal sensory system. Nonetheless, there is no notice of liquor in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
Mental health professionals consider alcohol as a psychoactive substance that leads to medical complications.
The two main reasons why alcohol is not included in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act:
Social acceptance: In our country, the use of alcohol is predominant among all classes and age groups. The consumption of alcohol has become our way of life and, therefore, it is neither acknowledged as a drug nor is it considered as a problem.
Revenue: The revenue collected by the various state governments on the sale of alcohol is so high that if there is a ban on alcohol, the state governments would altogether lose 1,75,501 crores. Losing this sum would upset the advancement of the country. This ought not to be a motivation to prevent the government from remembering alcohol is perilous to health.
The government has raised the price of alcohol with the hope that consumption will reduce. In turn, the only effect of raising prices has made middle-class families fall below the poverty line.
Several factors guide the effects of a drug. Age, sex, the quantity of intake, presence of other drugs in the body and other underlying health conditions can change the effects of the drug. Therefore, we can say that drugs respond contrastingly in various people. Continued intake of psychotropic substances can build tolerance, which in turn leads to intake of substances in large quantities. After prolonged use, the person becomes dependent on it. Drug dependence is serious and can affect social and work life.
The use of drugs can lead to risky behaviour. Under the influence of substance, the odds of mishaps, committing sexual assault or being sexually assaulted are higher than usual. In fact, Rohypnol, also known as a date rape drug, is the most preferred drug to use for sexual offences.
The long-term effects of substance abuse include psychosis, mental illness, failure of organs, cancer, collapsed veins and infection due to the use of needles and even miscarriage in pregnant women.
When the effect of the drug subsides, it is called ‘comedown’. Dizziness, exhaustion, headache, and nausea are some of the most common comedown symptoms.
We know that usage of drugs for a prolonged period can turn out to be fatal. On the brighter side, certain drugs have medicinal values. With the development in the field of research relating to drugs, it has been found that staggering the use of drugs can cure or help control diseases. Some of the drugs which have medicinal value are
Most users of opiates don’t use heroin. Opiates are mainly used to treat anxiety, depression, sleep disorder, flashbacks etc. These opiates are mostly pharmaceuticals in nature. After the patient becomes dependent on these drugs, heroin is used to overcome this addiction.
Even though ketamine is not completely banned, it is strictly restricted. Ketamine is used for starting and maintaining anaesthesia. Ketamine was used extensively during the Vietnam war as surgical anaesthetics. It is used to treat bipolar disorder in children and they are cured most of the time.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a disorder whereby individuals while recounting past experiences feel an emotional rush. Doctors prescribe MDMA to these patients. A study showed every patient with PTSD who has been treated with MDMA has had fewer symptoms. MDMA is given in two or four doses over a period of one month.
While countries like the Netherlands and Canada have sanctioned the use of drugs, other countries have increased the punishment for possession and consumption of drugs. The best way forward for India is to conduct awareness programmes to sensitise the people and to bring about better facilities in rehabilitation centres for tracing addicts. Glancing through the information given above, one can clearly understand that drugs are a boon and a bane. They are both beneficial as well as lethal. It all comes down to the way it is used.
Why is alcohol excluded and opium included in NARCOTIC DRUGS AND PSYCHOTROPIC SUBSTANCES act, 1985? (nih.gov)
Alcohol and Drug-Related Crime Statistics (verywellmind.com)
Name: Rithika Mohan