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Abuse of prescription drugs on the rise

Prescription drug abuse is a growing form of addiction in India. What's worrying is that because many of these drugs are available over the counter, accessing them is easy.

Abuse of prescription drugs on the rise

Prescription drug abuse is a growing form of addiction in India. What's worrying is that because many of these drugs are available over the counter, accessing them is easy.

In 2006-07, out of those treated, 19 per cent reported pharma drugs abuse. In 2007-08 it rose to 22 per cent.

Doctors say it is as bad as alcoholism or heroin addiction. Addiction does not start with illicit drugs. People get addicted to lower level available drugs like cough syrups and painkillers.

"I drank an entire bottle of Baygon Spray," says an addict. This 35-year-old man has attempted suicide, lost all this friends and changed 10 jobs in the last 12 years. All because he has been abusing prescription drugs for the last 14 years.

"I would take eight bottles of cough syrup daily. I got them without any prescription. Chemists want good business and they knew I would purchase these regularly," says another.

Chemists break the law easily and sell without prescriptions because there are few health inspectors to supervise.

Relaxed licensing has also led to chemist shops being set up in clusters, where drugs are sold liberally to gain a competitive edge.

"Yes we are aware of the problem. In fact states like Gujarat have put the chemist shops list on the net. The food and drug administration is also showing a keen interest to note how many licenses are being issued," says Surinder Singh, Drug Controller General of India.

Alternative drug abuse has spread to smaller towns as well.

A farmer from Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh travelled over 100 kilometers for treatment. Injections for pain relief that were given to him following an accident soon became an addiction, facilitated by chemists.

"Pharmaceutical abuse is the number one addiction in states like Punjab and Mizoram. Even internationally it has been pointed out that India needs to be vigilant," says Professor Rajat Ray, Chief of National Drug Dependence Treatment Center.

Health experts advise awareness for consumers and ask doctors to prescribe such medicines in moderation to reduce the chances of addiction. But the main problem is easy availability of these drugs.
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