Drug abuse in Punjab

Context: Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann led a large prayer gathering of schoolchildren, in which they pledged to reject the scourge of drugs.

  • Punjab continues to grapple with the menace that has plagued it for over a decade. Seasoned police officers describe it as narco-terrorism, propagated by an unfriendly neighbour.
  • The Director-General of Police regularly updates the public on drug seizures, citing an alarming annual tally of 12,000 to 14,000 cases filed under the NDPS Act, alongside a record seizure of 1,100 kg of heroin in 2023.
  • Drug overdose deaths continue — as per the government’s own report, 266 persons have died of drugs between April 2020 and March 2023.
  • Earlier it was also reported that the problem of drug abuse is likely to explode in the next decade as the usage in now reaching the adolescents. It was also observed that impact of drug abuse has increased both in rural and Urban India.
  • There has been also an increase in drug-abuse particularly post the corona pandemic.

What is Drug or Substance Addiction?

Drug addiction occurs when its abuse affects a person’s work and normal family life. It creates a ripple effect in the lives of the user and his immediate circle of family, friends, co-workers, neighbours and acquaintances. 

Why Punjab remains a problem?

Geographic Location:

The state’s vulnerable geography makes it a hotspot for smuggling of heroin and other opioids across the border.

Declining Agricultural Wealth

Agriculture, which brought the state its wealth, is stagnating and with little industrialisation there is high unemployment present today in Punjab, which makes it a ideal breeding ground for drug industry to make inroads.

Reminiscent of Khalistan movement

In the 1980s, Punjab was in the grip of a violent separatist militancy which has now ebbed but has left its scars. Though Punjab got rid of the secessionist movement only for it to be replaced with narcotics-terrorism thus highlighting the linkages between organised crime and terrorism.

Functional challenges

The small quantity of the drugs seized by the police are clubbed under personal consumption and not as aggregators or peddlers, and this lapse is being utilised by the drug cartels which now engage small time and part time drug peddlers not only making it difficult for police to crack but also multiplying the spread.

Ludhiana as the Drug capital

As Drug usage is also directly proportional to availability of money, Ludhiana being a business hub and with the large population has led to its emergence as Drug capital in Punjab. 

Further the presence of strong diaspora abroad and the remittances contributed by them increases the paying capacity of people also in rural areas.


GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION: India is located between the Golden Crescent (IRAN, PAKISTAN and AFGHANISTAN)  and the Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) which are the largest opium producing region globally.

LOW INCOME GROUP: Population belonging to the lower strata of the society are particularly exposed to drug abuse in India, and use these as a form of relaxation agent.

SOCIETAL PRESSURE: Most of the youth who get addicted to drug abuse is due to the fact that they start it under the peer pressure or even due to the isolation suffered at the adolescent level at the hands of parents and friends. Apart from this performance pressure, growing emptiness and changing socio-economic conditions are having a toll on the age group.

HEALTH CONDITIONS: It can also be due to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression or even due to the high levels of stress.

POOR LAW ENFORCEMENT: Corruption among the local enforcement agencies (police) and the loopholes at the border levels have been successfully exploited by the drug cartels. There is also a shortage of staff and equipment to tackle the illicit traffic of drugs.

CURRENT ECONOMIC DOWNTURN: The economic downturn due to covid pandemic and the global recession that is following will certainly increase the trend of drug abuse in India.


There has been also glamourisation of intoxication and addictive substance via social media and OTT platforms through web series. 

Steps taken by Punjab to counter

  • Many villages have formed their own anti-drug committees.
  • Some police districts have introduced gully cricket, while others have instructed constables to mentor addicts.
  • Police personnel’s are also harnessing the power of social media, with district police chiefs often leading these initiatives.
  • The prayer gathering at the Golden Temple was an attempt in this direction such that the tenets of religion can be also utilised as a tool of moral suasion.

 Indian Government Efforts To Fight Drug Abuse

  • Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB): NCB is primary agency responsible for curbing trade in illicit drugs & precursor chemicals. NCB shares intelligence with other agencies like Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for better coordination. 
  • NCB also take required actions to control drug trafficking under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985. India has entered into 26 bilateral agreements to tackle the threat of drug trade.
  • Narco-Coordination Centre was established in 2016.
  •  A mechanism under the NCB which was restructured in 2019 into a four-tier district-level scheme.
  • Seizure Information Management System (SIMS) was also launched in 2019 under Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, for better coordination of all drug law enforcement agencies.
  • Constitution of National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse
  • Project SUNRISE was launched specially for the Northeast region to tackle rising HIV prevalence, especially among the people injecting drugs.
  • NASHA MUKT BHARAT campaign was also launched.
  • India’s NCB works with several international agencies like SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk, BRICS, Colombo Plan Drug Advisory Program, ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters, BIMSTEC, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), among others, to combat the illicit trade of drugs.
  • India is also a signatory to UN Convention on NARCOTIC DRUGS (1961), UN Convention on PSYCHOTROPIC Substances (1971), UN Convention on TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME.

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