Sleuths of the Indian Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) stormed into a “rave party” on a luxury liner at the Mumbai port and arrested Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan and seven others for illegal possession of drugs. According to the NCB, drugs such as MDMA/Ecstasy, Cocaine and MD (Mephedrone) were recovered from the suspects, all of whom were from well-heeled families.

The arrest of Aryan Khan set off a wave of sympathy for the 23 year-old. Expressions of support for his parents Shah Rukh Khan and Gowry Khan poured in from the film fraternity.Many top stars called on the distressed couple to comfort them.

To the delight of the sensation-seeking media, the case got complicated with the news that Aryan had no drugs on his person and that three of the arrested youngsters were let off quickly, touching off speculation about their dubious “links. On top of it all, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activist had participated in the raid and posed for photographs with the celebrities,leading to a charge that the NCB raid was conducted at the behest of the BJP looking for political gain.

Be that as it may, what cannot be denied is that Bollywood has been on the NCB’s radar for drug consumption since 2020 when an up and coming star, Sushant Singh Rajput, committed suicide. His friend Rhea Chakraborty had spilled the beans about top stars “doing drugs” and the list included Sara Ali Khan and RakulPreet Singh. Film makers Vivek Agnihotrirevealed in a recent article in First Post that drugs are an essential part of Bollywood parties. In the film fraternity it is considered “cool” to take drugs because it is seen as a ticket to enter the charmed circle. Rhea Chakraborty had told NCB under arrest that 80% of Bollywood stars were on drugs.

Even Bollywood parents seem oblivious to the ill-effects of drug abuse. In an interview to Simi Grewal in 1997, Shah Rukh Khan had himself said that he would let his son Aryan, then only three years old, go after girls and drugs things he could not do when growing up in conservative middle-class Delhi.

While all this is grist to the mill of the Bollywoodfixated, sensation-loving media, people may miss the point that drug abuse is and has been, a major, widespread and deep-rooted menace in India for decades and that steps have to be taken urgently to curb it.  

Drug misuse is a pervasive phenomenon in Indian society,” says a report published jointly by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and India’s Ministry of Social Justice. According to this report, in India, cannabis, heroin and opium are the most commonly used drugs but there is an increasing prevalence of methamphetamine too. The number of users who inject drugs has also gone up substantially. There are one million heroin users registered in India, with the overall estimate running to five million users. About 2.8% of Indians aged 10-75 years (30 million individuals) consume cannabis (bhang, ganja and charas). Delhi has 25,000 school kids addicted to drugs. In some cases, even 8-year-old kids are into it.

Bollywood and the entertainment industry have a major role to play in the acceptance of the drug culture. Writing in Firstpost on October 8, Vivek Agnihotri says that studies in America have found that intoxicants figure in nearly half of all music videos with 13% showing drug abuse. Increased consumption of popular music is associated with marijuana use. Teens who watch adult movies are 6 times more likely to try marijuana. Teens who spend time on social networking sites are twice as likely to use marijuana than teens who do not visit these sites. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the US, estimates that in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry, 13.7% used an illicit drug in the past month.

The National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, in its report for 2019, stated that there is a sizeable population in India which is affected by substance use disorders and is in need of urgent help.

About 2.8% of the population (about 28 million) reported having used any cannabis product in the previous year. About 2.1% of the country’s population (More than 20 million) use opioids which includes Opium, Heroin (or its impure form – smack or brown sugar) and a variety ofpharmaceutical opioids. Nationally, the mostcommon opioid used is Heroin (1.14%)followed by pharmaceutical opioids (0.96%)and Opium (0.52%).

The estimated prevalence of opioid use in India is considerably higher than the Global and Asian average. However, the prevalence of cocaine and ATS use is much lower.

While substance use exists in all the population groups, it is the adult men in India who show substance use disorders the most. Children and adolescents are also “groups of concern.

Data form the 2019 survey confirm what has been known for a long time; there is a gross mismatch between demand and availability of treatment services for substance use disorders in the country. The National Mental Health Survey (NMHS), reported a high ‘treatment gap’ (i.e. number of people, in need of treatment but not receiving treatment) for substance use disorders in India. Just about one in 37 people affected by alcohol use disorders and one in 20 affected by drug use disorders have received any treatment, ever.

The 2019 report decries the criminalization of drug use on the ground that it prevents victims from seeking treatment. Under the NDPS Act (1985) personal consumption of controlled drugs is a criminal offence. Similarly, in the states with alcohol prohibition, consumption of alcohol is a criminal act. This criminalization of people using substances, further enhances the stigma, isolation and hinders access to treatment.

In the line of recommendations by International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and many other international agencies, it is important to take necessary steps to minimize the stigma and discrimination and provide health and welfare services to people affected by substance use (rather than subjecting them to the criminal justice system).

Marian Je drezejczak, writing in “Military Medicine” in 2005, revealed that children from families where authority belonged to motherswere more inclined to drug abuse. In 60% of families of drug addicts the fathers had withdrawn from family life, i.e., they were not interested in family matters or they avoided responsibility. 55.6% of the investigated addicts thought that their fathers devoted too little time to the family.

Aryan Khan had told the police, with tears in his eyes, that he had seek an appointment to see his father, the ever busy Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan.



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