Punjab, which has been battling the menace of drugs, currently could have between 1 lakh to 2.7 lakh people that are dependent on opioids. In Chandigarh, between 1,385 to 7,000 could be using them. Findings from the study titled “Epidemiology of Substance Use and Dependence in the State of Punjab,” released by the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) on Friday revealed that about one in 92 persons in Punjab had used ‘any’ illicit substance (drug) in the past 12 months, and more than one in 87 were currently dependent on them. “These estimates are likely to be higher in marginalised or other specific high-risk populations for instance — homeless people, prison population, other non-household population like truck drivers and college students in hostels,” said Dr. Ajit Avasthi, head of the psychiatry department, PGIMER.“The opioid dependent population is somewhere between 1 lakh to 2.7 lakh people in Punjab. These are huge figures, and indeed worrying. An urgent attention is required to address the problem,” said Dr. Avasthi. The findings of the study were based on household and rapid assessment surveys in both Punjab and Chandigarh. The aim of the household survey was to estimate the prevalence of substance use such as heroin, bhukhi (poppy husk) and opium, besides alcohol and tobacco. The objective of the rapid assessment survey was to estimate the size of the population using illicit drugs. Alcohol, tobacco tooThe study pointed out that approximately one in six persons were dependent on ‘any’ substance and contrary to expectation, substance use and dependence were more common in rural than urban areas. The single most common substance of use and dependence was alcohol followed by tobacco. There were more than 22 lakh alcohol dependent persons and nearly 16 lakhs tobacco dependent persons currently. The rapid assessment survey revealed that in Punjab natural opioids (opium and poppy husk) were the most common types in use while injection opioid use was the second most common form. “In injection opioids — heroin was the commonest type,” added the survey. In Chandigarh, meanwhile approximately one in 1,250 persons was using illicit opioids substances, according to the household survey while the rapid assessment survey pointed out that in Chandigarh the opioid dependent population was around 7,000. These are typically young males and injections (Buprenorphin/Heroin/Pentzocin) are the most common types in use. The PGIMER carried out this study over two years for the Indian Council of Medical Research with the help of the medical colleges in Patiala, Faridkot and Amritsar along with the Institute of Mental Health in Amritsar.