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Synthetic Drugs Plague India

The cheap prices and easy availability of opioids and Rx drugs are fueling a growing epidemic.

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A set of drugs and syringes are sold for as
little as 50 rupees ($.90) Photo via

By McCarton Ackerman

09/11/12

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Economics have switched the drugs of choice for residents of India from heroin and cocaine to opioids and prescription drugs, resulting in an epidemic that is now the country's fastest growing problem. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates there are 160,000 injecting drug users throughout the country, roughly one-third of whom are HIV positive. According to the UNODC's recently released World Drug Report 2011, this increase in drug use is also one of the least reported in developing countries. Heroin costs more than 10 times as much as pharmaceutical drugs in India, where chemists sell a set of three drugs and two syringes and needles for as little as 50 rupees ($.90). NGO workers say that although it's illegal to sell the drugs, it's standard practice for chemists to pay off the police. "It is a very big problem here. All my friends from when I was a teenager are users or dead," says Faqir, 32, who used to run a snack shop until his own drug habit forced him to stop. The epidemic has gotten so bad that wives and parents have been known to pay up to 5,000 rupees to have a user picked up against their will in the hope that their habit will be broken. "Every day there is a fight," says 45-year-old Ramesh Kumar. "Only my wife looks after my children. We have no money. I think first of the drugs and then only I think of them, but I can't stop."

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