Substance abuse in Kerala | On a high, at a social cost (2023)

On a scorching summer afternoon Jaya sits outside a row of decrepit houses near the Varkala beach, a top tourist hotspot in the State. Her right arm is covered in a tangle of cuts and she has a bad gash running down her temple that just missed the eye – the aftermath of a razor blade attack by her 23-year-old son.

He had started off with cannabis at the age of 17, later switching to synthetic drugs that kept him irrational and violent mostly. But the last time he went berserk like a man possessed and tore down a part of their ramshackle house, she dialled the helpline number given by her ward member.

“I told them I will kill myself and soon some officials arrived. But they wanted me to file a police complaint and I did not want him sent to jail,” she says with a sigh.

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When Rajesh found his 14-year-old daughter overdosing on prescription drugs, it came as a huge shock for the family. After some secret trips to a private medical college hospital in Kozhikode and some counselling sessions, he thought the matter was settled. But by the time she started Plus One, the young girl had waded into more dangerous territory.

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She was using LSD stamps and her tantrums were beyond control. Even after months of therapy, there are bouts of aggression and self-harming. On some extremely difficult days, her father goes in search of the local peddler to get her a quick fix as “it shatters us to see our child in such condition”.

According to the police, a large percentage of suicides, homicides, and domestic abuse cases stem from substance abuse. “Crimes triggered by drugs or alcohol have been on the rise, especially intimate partner violence. Addiction often impairs judgement and users in their desperate drug-seeking mood can be highly dangerous. Studies show that drug and alcohol dependence also escalates suicidal tendencies and we should remember that the suicide rate in Kerala is high when we compare it with national average. At the same time, our current system is quite inadequate to address the menace of addiction, which has far-reaching consequences,” says a senior officer.

Training for law enforcers

Though it is possible to reduce and eliminate the risk factors while dealing with drug abuse, at present there is no system for targeted interventions. Despite implementing seemingly strong strategies, the result is hardly promising as the process is riddled with roadblocks.

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According to healthcare professionals, everything from political will to community-level awareness matters and they seem quite apprehensive even after Kerala government’s ordinance amending the Kerala Healthcare Service Persons and Healthcare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act of 2012 by introducing more stringent penal provisions against those perpetrating violence against hospitals and by widening the definition of healthcare workers.

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“Violence by persons with mental illness is not common in general casualty settings. People who unleash violence in hospitals are not those who face mental health issues but anti-socials under the influence of substances. Very often law-enforcers require proper training to assess a situation when they are dealing with such cases. The police should be able to anticipate contingencies and be proactive as the Kottarakara incident proves that they can go to any extent. They cannot bring in people with aberrant behaviour to casualty without proper precautions,” says M.T. Harish, psychiatrist.

He adds that the entire system needs an overhaul as most casualties in government hospitals function as extended outpatient departments. “This leads to increased workload as the duty doctor, who is posted to take care of real emergencies, spends a lot of available time seeing walk-in outpatients who do not need emergency care. If you look at the workforce, a vast majority are women and their safety is at risk. The government amended the Act with a good intention, but we must also realise that there is a nexus between the police and local politicians that sabotage the entire process,” he says.

Psychologists and counsellors working with government institutions and the Vimukthi Mission say they often feel unsafe. “The scale of violence will depend on the kind and amount of the substance they take and often patients on the early stages of rehab exhibit compulsive aggression. While private de-addiction and therapy centres are fully equipped to deal with such situations, we survive on luck. There have been incidents, but nobody cares,” says a counsellor working with the department.

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Meanwhile, the police feel that the force should not be judged on the basis of a stray incident. “What happened in Kottarakara was totally unfortunate. But we have been grappling with staff shortage for a while. A large number of police stations in Kerala are understaffed. That does not mean that we can avoid any duties or delay investigation. But it will definitely affect their efficiency and performance. Notorious criminal Aadu Antony could kill a policeman as the patrolling team had only two members,” says an office-bearer of the Kerala Police Association.

He adds that though the Home department had plans to recruit more persons the decision was put on the back burner due to the post-COVID-19 crunch.

“At present all local police stations in the State are manned by less than 25,000 personnel which is far from ideal staff strength,” he says. He adds that they are also concerned about the media trial that follows incidents where a police officer is forced to physically subdue a person.

“You will find at least a hundred online links about an incident in which a policeman kicked a poor ticketless passenger. In reality, he was a habitual offender and an accused in multiple sexual abuse cases who was just released from prison. The policeman had to use force when this fellow tried to assault female passengers, but the assistant sub-inspector was suspended to satisfy the media. Such incidents affect our morale,” he says.

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Law enforcers usually deal with addicts on a regular basis as they are the first responders during emergencies. “Every evening we get phone calls from distressed family members and neighbours. We have been handling such cases for a long time and officers are experienced enough to manage such situations. But what we need is a permanent solution as keeping the person at station for a night will not magically reform the addict. They call us when the person turns violent or threatens with suicide, but as soon as we defuse the situation, the family requests us not to file any complaint. Without their cooperation, we are also helpless,” says a senior civil police officer.

Gaps in the system

Though the Excise department has established de-addiction centres across the districts under the Vimukthi Mission, getting an admission is not possible without a caregiver.

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“There are limitations for law enforcers to get involved. Most families are not willing to file a complaint and, in some cases, to get the person treated. All we can do is to warn them and I do not think admonishing will make any difference in the case of hardcore druggies and alcoholics. We get a huge number of distress calls from all excise ranges, but a good percentage of the families do not want to go through the official route and we have no other option. Even if we know a person is a potential threat, we cannot do any follow-up unless the family contacts us. We can intervene only when the person gets involved in another crime or peddling,” says a high-ranking official of the Excise department.

He adds that the department is at present readying a proposal to streamline the process. “If we do not launch a strong and sensible strategy there will be a spike in overdose deaths and associated crimes. We need systematic intervention, de-addiction treatment, and counselling so that there are no chances for a relapse. At present, we are helpless even if we know the person is prone to violence due to drug use disorders. From the surface our system may seem perfect with so many campaigns and events to prevent substance abuse. But most efforts are futile as we need a lot of changes to ensure they are properly treated and rehabilitated. But only the government can take a final decision in such matters,” he says.

*Some names changed to protect identities

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Related Topics



What are the social costs of substance abuse? ›

Substance abuse is a preventable and treatable condition that imposes tremendous financial and social costs. Societal costs of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use are nearly 6 percent of the nation's income — over $532 billion a year.

Is there a drug problem in Kerala? ›

Kerala has been dealing with an unprecedented rise in the number of cases registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. According to latest statistics, there were 26,629 cases in 2022, which is almost 300 per cent more than the cases reported in 2016.

What are the social issues of drug abuse? ›

There are many other adverse effects of drug abuse on families: Family conflict that might include physical and/or mental abuse and neglect. Loss of employment and income. Increased likelihood of emotional and mental disorders (like anxiety and depression) among family members.

What is the drug addiction campaign in Kerala? ›

Vimukthi is an anti-narcotics campaign launched by the Government of Kerala to highlight the seriousness of the situation and to create awareness among the people, especially the youth.

What drug has the highest social cost? ›

Tobacco and alcohol have the highest tangible social costs (close to $34 billion combined) with the largest cost attributed to premature mortality/health care ($8.6 billion; 45% of costs for tobacco and $7.1 billion; 50% of costs for alcohol).

What are three social costs examples? ›

The social costs include all these private costs (fuel, oil, maintenance, insurance, depreciation, and operator's driving time) and also the cost experienced by people other than the operator who are exposed to the congestion and air pollution resulting from the use of the car.

What is the most common drug used in Kerala? ›

The survey indicated that ganja accounted for 82 per cent of drug abuse among teenagers. While 75.66 per cent of the surveyed teenagers smoked, 64.66 per cent drank alcohol and 25.5 per cent did drugs.

Which city in India has highest drug addiction rates? ›

Among Union territories, Delhi has the highest number of drug and alcohol addiction related suicides, numbering 134 in 2020, the Union home ministry said.

What is the biggest drug problem in India? ›

Alcohol, cannabis, opium, and heroin are the major drugs misused in India, says the report. Buprenorphine, propoxyphene, and heroin are the most commonly injected drugs.

What are 3 social risk factors in drug abuse? ›

Risk Factors for High-Risk Substance Use
  • Family history of substance use.
  • Favorable parental attitudes towards the behavior.
  • Poor parental monitoring.
  • Parental substance use.
  • Family rejection of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Association with delinquent or substance using peers.
  • Lack of school connectedness.

What are current social issues? ›

Some relevant global social problems include income inequality (poverty), corruption, the rise in authoritarianism (erosion of democratic values), criminality, unsustainable development, and bullying in schools.

What are the social problems in the society? ›

Poverty, unemployment, unequal opportunity, racism, and malnutrition are examples of social problems. So are substandard housing, employment discrimination, and child abuse and neglect. Crime and substance abuse are also examples of social problems.

Which Indian states have highest drug addiction? ›

Tamil Nadu (90.0%), Gujarat (89.5%), Haryana (85.4%) and Andhra Pradesh (83.2%) reported higher percentages of married drug abusers. Unmarried drug abusers tended to be from Mizoram and Nagaland.

Is drug addiction a social issue in India? ›

Drug addiction has actually become one of the crucial social problem from last three decades. It is also said that India has become not only an important transit centre for drugs but the prevalence of drug use is also increasing at an alarming rate.

Which drugs seized in Kerala? ›

“The Indian Navy and Coast Guard seized drugs worth ₹12,000 crore off the Kerala coast recently. This is more than what was seized in an entire year in the past. During ten years of UPA, narcotics worth Rs 680 crore were seized. And we have seized drugs worth ₹12,000 crore in one instance.

What is the number 1 selling drug in America? ›

Humira was the top medicine in the United States based on sales in 2021, generating 17.3 billion U.S. dollars in revenue. The branded drug – used to treat, for example, arthritis – has topped revenue rankings for a number of years and made around 7.5 billion U.S. dollars more than second ranked Keytruda.

What is the highest costly drug in the world? ›

The Food and Drug Administration approved late last year CSL Behring's hemophilia B gene therapy Hemgenix, a one-off infusion that costs $3.5 million a dose, making it the world's most expensive drug.

Which drugs cost the most? ›

Heroin also costs Americans over $22 billion per year in healthcare, law enforcement, and automobile accidents. Unfortunately, the most expensive price is that of a person's life—heroin poses a serious risk of overdose and the spreading of deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.

What are social costs examples? ›

Examples of the social cost often carried by a social enterprise are: a lower level of productivity among employees. increased materials wastage.

What do you mean by social cost? ›

(y) Social costs means costs estimated from the viewpoint of society, rather than individual stakeholders. Social cost represents the total burden imposed on the economy; it is the sum of all opportunity costs incurred associated with taking actions.

What are the two types of social costs? ›

Social costs can be of two types—Negative Production Externality and Positive Production Externality.

Which medicine is most selling in Kerala? ›

In Kerala, cardiovascular drugs occupy the top position in terms of sale, while anti-diabetic drugs comes second.

Which drug is famous in India? ›

In terms of users, India's illicit drug markets are mostly dominated by cannabis and opioids. Cannabis in the form of bhang is legal in India. Its other forms -- ganja (marijuana) and charas (hashish) -- are illegal.

What is the most common drug use in India? ›

Cannabis, heroin, and Indian-produced pharmaceutical drugs are the most frequently abused drugs in India. Cannabis products, often called charas, bhang, or ganja, are abused throughout the country because it has attained some amount of religious sanctity because of its association with some Hindu deities[3].

Which city is the drug hub of India? ›

The study shows 90 percent of drug abusers are using heroin while the rest are using cocaine, brown sugar, and Marijuana. Kashmir Valley is slowly becoming India's drug hub.

Which city in India is addicted to drugs? ›

Delhi, Mumbai top list of Indian cities in drug trafficking | Latest News India - Hindustan Times.

What is the trend of drug abuse in India? ›

Opioid use is reported in 2.1% of the country's population, with heroin use being highest at 1.14% percent followed by pharmaceutical opioids at 0.96% and opium at 0.52%. Regarding the pattern of use, dependent use is highest among users. The prevalence of opioid use in India is three times the global average.

Why are so many drugs made in India? ›

Since most people in India didn't have health insurance, and the salaries were low compared to the Western world, importing already available branded medicines were too expensive for the Indian population. They had to be produced locally as a generic medicine instead, which was possible thanks to patent law.

Does India have an opioid problem? ›

About 2.1% of India's population use opioids. There is considerable variation in the number of opioid users across Indian states. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of people with opioid use problems, although in terms of percentage of population affected, the worst affected states are Mizoram and Nagaland.

What are the main causes of drug addiction in India? ›

What are the Causes of Drug Abuse?
  • Family history of addiction.
  • Mental health disorder.
  • Peer pressure.
  • Lack of family involvement.
  • Early use.
  • Taking highly addictive drugs.

What are the two types of substance abuse? ›

There are two main types of substance use disorders: alcohol use disorder and drug use disorder. Some people abuse both substances, while others are addicted to one or the other.

What role does society play in addiction? ›

Sociocultural beliefs can shape the approach to and behavior regarding substance use and abuse. Culture plays a central role in forming the expectations of individuals about potential problems they may face with drug use.

What are 5 risk factors for addiction? ›

Risk factors
  • Family history of addiction. Drug addiction is more common in some families and likely involves an increased risk based on genes. ...
  • Mental health disorder. ...
  • Peer pressure. ...
  • Lack of family involvement. ...
  • Early use. ...
  • Taking a highly addictive drug.
Oct 4, 2022

What are the most serious social problems today? ›

The Biggest Social Justice Issues We Face Today
  • 1 – Voting. ...
  • 2 – Climate Change. ...
  • 3 – Healthcare. ...
  • 4 – Refugee Crisis and Immigration. ...
  • 5 – Body Autonomy. ...
  • 6 – Racial Injustice. ...
  • 7 – Gun Violence. ...
  • 8 – LGBTQ+

What are some social problems in America? ›

Racism and racial inequality
  • Healthcare in the United States.
  • Human rights in the United States.
  • Violence against LGBT people in the United States.
  • Domestic violence in the United States.
  • Gender inequality in the United States.
  • Gun violence in the United States.
  • Wealth inequality in the United States.

What makes a problem a social problem? ›

A social problem is any condition or behavior that has negative consequences for large numbers of people and that is generally recognized as a condition or behavior that needs to be addressed. This definition has both an objective component and a subjective component.

What are the 4 elements of a social problem? ›

Four Elements of a Social Problem1) They cause physical or mental damage to individuals or society. 2) They offend the values or standards of some powerful segment of society. 3) They persist for an extended period of time.

What creates social inequality in society? ›

The causes of social inequality include society's acceptance of roles, stereotyping, social organization by class (or class systems) and economic disparity, as well as legislation and political inequality.

Is drug addiction increasing in India? ›

There has been a change in the pattern of substance abuse as reflected in the National survey on Extent, Pattern and Trends of Substance Use done in 2004, and in the Comprehensive National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India conducted in 2018.

How many youth are addicted to drugs in India? ›

A staggering 1.58 crore children aged between 10 and 17 years are addicted to substances in the country, the government told the Supreme Court today.

Is there a drug problem in Mumbai? ›

Till September, Mumbai Police had registered 2,720 cases of drug-related cases, including 2,503 cases of consumption. The police also seized drugs worth Rs15 crore, including 6.3kg of heroin, 7.3kg of charas worth Rs33 lakh, cocaine worth Rs10 lakh, 2.26kg of mephedrone worth Rs65. 1lakh and 336kg of ganja worth Rs1.

What are the social implications of drug abuse in India? ›

Studies show that drug abuse leads to poverty and family breakdown. According to a survey in India, weekly expenditure on drugs amounted to $13 and total expenditure ranged between US $250–$25,000. In families disrupted by drug abuse, poverty is often transmitted from parents to children.

What is the nature and extent of drug abuse in India? ›

It is estimated that, in India, by the time most boys reach the ninth grade, about 50% of them have tried at least one of the substance of abuse nature. [10] In the present study, 48% of the subjects were in adolescence age group and prevalence of substance abuse was 56.3%.

When did drug abuse start in India? ›

However, since its first men- tion in Hindu religious literature in 3rd century AD, the use of cannabis has become widespread in Indian society. In addition to its religious use, the drug has had a wide use in indigenous medicines, and to some extent in modern medicine in India.

What is the biggest drug raid in India? ›

Story highlights. India's biggest drug bust: 'Operation Samudragupt' was launched in January 2022 to combat maritime trafficking of heroin and other drugs in the Indian Ocean region. Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) director general Satya Narayan Pradhan had launched Operation Samudragupt.

Which is the first drug free village in Kerala? ›

Barely three months ago, Kolavayal village in Kerala's Kasaragod district had shown the way, launching a campaign against narcotics consumption with the intervention of the police and support of the local community.

Which drug is illegal in India? ›

In India, cannabis is still a prohibited substance under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. Under the NDPS Act, it is illegal for a person to produce/manufacture/cultivate, possess, sell, purchase, transport, store, and/or consume any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.

What is an example of social cost? ›

Thus, the social costs include: The cost of natural resources for which the firms are not required to pay, for example, river, lake, atmosphere, etc. The use of public utility services such as roadways, drainage systems, etc. The cost of 'disutility' created through pollution (air, water, noise, environment).

What are the social economic effects of substance abuse? ›

Beyond chronic absenteeism, employers are faced with theft of supplies, equipment, and products that can be sold to buy drugs, the loss of productivity, increased use of medical and insurance benefits, and an increased risk of work-related injuries to themselves and others.

What are the different social costs? ›

Social costs can be of two types—Negative Production Externality and Positive Production Externality. Negative Production Externality refers to a situation in which marginal damages are social costs to society that result in Marginal Social Cost being greater than the Marginal Private Cost i.e. MSC > MPC.

What are 3 costs of alcoholism to society? ›

Healthcare – $28 billion. Workplace productivity – $179 billion. Collisions – $13 billion.

What are 3 costs of social behavior? ›

However, individuals must consider three main items when it comes to altruism: energy cost, opportunity cost and risk cost. Energy cost concerns how much energy the individual will have to put forth to perform the action.

What is the effect of social cost? ›

Social cost effects. Under a competitive market, the market output will be efficient if production (supply) and consumption (demand) decisions consider social costs. Market prices represent production costs and external costs, which are not borne by the transacting parties.

What are some examples of social cost and benefit analysis? ›

The social cost and benefit analysis is a method to support the decision-making of the national, provincial and municipal governments. Cost-benefit analyses are used for infrastructural projects, and also apply to, for example, area development projects, sustainable energy development and water and nature issues.

What are socioeconomic factors leading to substance abuse? ›

Among the principal risk factors reported in connection with drug consumption are: low educational levels, high rates of unemployment, dysfunctional families, and psychological and psychiatric problems [4].

What is the economic cost of substance abuse? ›

The annual economic impact of substance misuse is estimated to be $249 billion for alcohol misuse and $193 billion for illicit drug use.

How do you solve social costs? ›

To calculate the marginal social cost, we take the marginal cost paid by the producer and add the external cost endured by the community.

What are the elements of social cost? ›

Components of social cost include costs of losses of life and life quality, medical costs, vehicle and other property damage costs, loss of production, law enforcement costs related to the accident, as well as legal and other administration costs.

What is social cost and benefit cost? ›

The societal cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is conducted from the point of view of society as a whole, including the total costs and benefits from the perspective of all stakeholders that have positive or negative benefits from the investment decision.

What are 3 social problems associated with alcohol use? ›

Social problems that indicate alcohol-use disorders include family conflict, separation or divorce, employment difficulties or job loss, arrests and motor vehicle accidents.

What are the economic costs of alcohol abuse and alcoholism? ›

The cost of excessive alcohol use in the United States reached $249 billion in 2010, or about $2.05 per drink. Most (77%) of these costs were due to binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as drinking four or more alcoholic beverages per occasion for women or five or more drinks per occasion for men.

What is the societal cost of alcohol use? ›

The U.S. Surgeon General reported that the yearly economic impact for alcohol misuse is $249 billion. For illicit drug use, it's $193 billion. An even distribution of the alcohol cost among U.S. adults averages out to about $807 per person annually.


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