ISSN: 2581-8465

DRUG ABUSE AND THE LAW- Social legal analysis

Author: Muskan Dosar[1] &Muskan saha[2]

“Drug abuse is a social evil. It destroys vitals not only of the society but also adversely affects the economic growth of the country…..”

-Y K Sabarwal, Former Chief Justice of India (2006)


Drug abuse is not as minor topics as it seems to be, it is one of the most “sensitive” and “neglected” area which needs major attention. We being human beings act so ignorant about the things happening around us, so many of the lives around us are at stake due to the misuse of drugs. Being so many statutory provisions made, still, we are not able to combat drug abuse in India. There is a lack of implementation of laws in our country.

Major causes for drug abuse can be categorized into- social, economic and mental issues. Drug abuse is a complex problem resulting in serious crimes, such as- human trafficking, money laundering, and other organized crime. It is also caused by various serious issues, such as – poverty, unemployment, addiction, mental sickness, etc.

Abusing drugs can lead the person to lifelong consequences such as memory loss, high blood pressure, mental illness, heart failure, stroke, lung damage, and coma, and may also lead to the death of the user.

In this paper discussion will be on:

  • What is drug abuse?
  • Types of drug abuse,
  • Causes of drug abuse,
  • Evaluation of existing government policies and statutory provisions made to combat drug abuse,
  • Suggestions to curb the problem of drug abuse.


Drug abuse usually involves selling, buying or abusing these substances, which can lead to arrest, criminal charges, and imprisonment. The term “drug abuse” is often associated with illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or marijuana. Nowadays, drug abuse is a trending fashion statement among youths. Moreover, adults of age group 16-25 are using drugs out of curiosity and then being addicted to it, they lose control over their own lives.

According to Article 47[3]– the state shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the state shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.

This article is responsible to keep a check and restrict the use of drugs except for medicinal purposes. Although Part IV[4] is non-enforceable,[5] usually this provision[6] applies to justify penal drug policies. Drugs and Poisons are the subjects of the concurrent list[7]on which both the state and the center can make law.

The Indian Parliament passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act), without much debate. The NDPS Act came into force on 14 November 1985, replacing the Opium Acts and the Dangerous Drugs Act. The 1940 Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, however, continue to apply.[8]

What is drug abuse?

“ drug abuse” implies improper or excessive use of therapeutic drugs or the use of non-medically useful or illegal drugs, even in moderate amounts and in the absence of addiction.[9]

The  World  Health Organization  Expert Committee on Addiction  Producing Drugs coined a  new term  “drug dependence”  to cover both psychological dependences as well as physiological dependence.  However, the older terminology, especially ‘drug addiction’ is still in use and is virtually used to label a person as a drug addict.[10]

Addiction v/s Abuse

Drug abuse is when the person uses legal or illegal substances in the way he should not use it. The person might take more than the regular dose of pills or use someone else’s prescription. He may abuse drugs to feel good, ease stress, or avoid the things which are a reality. But usually, he can able to change our unhealthy habits or stop using it altogether.

Addiction is when you the person can’t stop taking it. Not when it puts your health in danger. It creates financial, emotional, social and other problems for our loved ones. The urge to get and use drugs can fill up every minute of the day, even if you want to quit. It is badly addictive to the person who takes it. It also creates a really bad mental health problem like staying lost, longer time to memories things, getting emotional in small things and etc.


There are several types of drug abuse. Drug abuse can majorly be categorized in the following types:[11]

Stimulant Abuse

Substances due to which physical and psychological functions are caused to speed up are called stimulants. Due to the use of stimulants, an individual may face an extreme boost of energy, euphoria, and a powerful sense of grandiosity. Whilesome stimulants substances help in battling mental illness, others may cause severe medical or psychiatric benefit. Some of the most commonly abused stimulants include:

  • Cocaine Abuse

Throughout the United States, cocaine is one of the most popular street drugs. It is derived from a coca plant ad that comes in a whited powder form. Youths usually use it for snorting. Someone abusing cocaine will experience an energetic, euphoric high for about 20 minutes before it wears off. As a result, most cocaine users abuse this substance back-to-back to maintain that high. Unfortunately, using cocaine frequently quickly leads to dependence and potential overdose.

  • Adderall Abuse

By far the most popular prescription stimulant, Adderall is used for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. When taken as prescribed, Adderall can increase focus and attention. However, when it is abused, Adderall triggers a boost of energy and hyper focus, which can last hours. Abusing this prescription drug excessively can lead to cardiac complications up to and including heart attack.

  • Meth Abuse

Known on the streets as “trash” or “garbage”, meth is an extremely toxic stimulant that has a pseudoephedrine base, which is the primary ingredient that triggers stimulant effects. Meth also contains deadly elements such as paint thinner, hydrochloric acid, and battery fluid, to name a few. Individuals abusing meth will experience intense euphoric highs and equally as depressed lows. The up and down process of going from euphoric to depressed can be extreme and lead to severe psychological problems that have the potential to be permanent.

Opioid Abuse

More than 11 million people in the United States have abused opioids. Today, the opioid epidemic rages on and more and more people are becoming dependent on their opioids or opioids of choice. Opioids can be naturally occurring (such as heroin and codeine) or synthetic (such as fentanyl and OxyContin) but are all equally as addictive. Continual opioid abuse can result in vital organ damage or failure, respiratory problems, and overdose. In fact, drug abuse involving opioids is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States.

  • Heroin Abuse

Today, heroin is the kingpin of opioids, with nearly one million people in the U.S. abusing it. When heroin is abused, individuals obtain a pleasurable high that reduces or eliminates their physical and/or psychological distress. Countless heroin users were once prescription painkiller users, however, they found that heroin was easier to obtain and more affordable. Heroin is usually smoked or injected. Those who inject this opioid can suffer from collapsed veins and an increased risk for contracting blood borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Prescription Painkillers

OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, and fentanyl are some of the most commonly abused prescription painkillers. When taken as prescribed, each one of these painkillers can pose a significant medical benefit, however when abused, they can be deadly. Prescription painkiller users tend to partake in behaviors such as doctor shopping, stealing prescription drugs from loved ones’ homes, and obtaining pills on the street. These medications can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected. Since these opioids are semi-synthetic, it is impossible to know what exact substances are in these drugs, making them extremely risky to continue to abuse.

Sedative Abuse

Sedatives such as benzodiazepines are primarily used to treat anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Benzodiazepines are highly effective in reducing anxiety and can also aid in helping individuals who suffer from sleep problems or seizures. However, they are very popular substances of abuse due to the feelings of detachment and relaxation that they produce.

  • Xanax, Ativan, and Valium

Xanax, Ativan, and Valium are benzodiazepines that work to calm the mind and body. When an individual consumes one or more of these benzodiazepines, he or she will become almost instantly relaxed. Unfortunately, when benzodiazepines like these are abused, individuals are at risk of experiencing excessive sleepiness, drowsiness, and respiratory depression. When an individual becomes physically and psychologically dependent on one of these prescription drugs and attempts to stop using suddenly, he or she can suffer from deadly withdrawal symptoms, including grand mal seizures.

  • Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens have long been part of club culture as substances that can enhance one’s experiences. While there are countless physical dangers of abusing hallucinations, one of the most pressing areas of concern is that someone who is under the influence of a hallucinogen can behave in a manner that is possibly dangerous or even deadly.

  • Ecstasy Abuse

When ecstasy is abused, individuals experience delusions and hallucinations that can be both visual and auditory. Those who are under the influence explain being on ecstasy as being in a state of complete euphoria. But when this drug is abused, several negative effects can occur, including dehydration that can be life-threatening.

Any and all types of drug abuse should be taken seriously, as allowing a substance use disorder to continue only leads to negative outcomes.


There can be majorly three causes of drug abuse:[12]

Social Causes:

In social causes, we can discuss all those social problems which are the basic causes of drug abuse. A poor relationship with parents is responsible for drug abuse among children, in most of the families we can see a huge lack of communication between child and parents and these things leads the child towards drug abuse.[13] Sometimes we can see it become a trend among friends to take drugs by the influence of those friends who are usually taking drugs. Drug users are taking drugs because it is easily available, we can see in the border area the people are taking drugs on a large scale because it is easily available in those areas.[14] Few of drug users are taking drugs because of their atmosphere, usually, we can see it in those people who are growing up in a home where alcohol and drug abuse is considered as normal behavior. Nowadays people are engaged in love affairs, the loss of a loved one and depression attracts a man more and more to the misuse of a substance. Unusual lifestyle is also responsible for drug abuse, usually, it is found in sex workers, transportation workers, and street children.[15]

Economic Cause

 In India poverty is a curse because it creates various problems one of them is drug abuse, financial worries lead people towards drug abuse because of mental pressure. People are producing narcotic drugs to increase income, so the production of narcotic drugs is responsible for the misuse of drugs.

Mental Causes

[16] There are mental causes which leads a person towards drug abuse situation of sadness, depression and stress are common causes for drug abuse. Sometimes users are misusing drugs because of low self-respect. Nowadays academic pressure is also creating stress because of this the people are misusing drugs.[17]


Indian Parliament has enacted two Central Acts:

1. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and

2. The Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988.

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 was passed to curb the problem of drug abuse and for the implementation of the international treaties and conventions. The act was amended in 1989, 2001 and in 2014.

This act prevents merchandise, cultivation, procurement, import Export, Possession, sale, purchase, utilization, and circulation of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances except for medical and scientific purposes in accordance with the law.[18] The narcotic drug comprises cannabis, coca, and opium and manufactured drugs.[19]The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 defined the term psychotropic substance as any substance, natural or synthetic, or any natural material or any salt or preparation of such substance or material included in the list of psychotropic substances specified in the Schedule.[20] This act provides the provisions for search, forfeiture and captures the persons from any place in India who indulge in the drug activities. The hardness of this act proves that if a person is caught again in a large number of narcotics, then there is a provision for a death sentence.[21]

Although in the case of Harm Reduction Network v. Union of India,[22]the Bombay High Court ruled that the death penalty under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 is unconstitutional but the Court did not strike down Section 31-A of this act. It did state that the courts were no longer obligated to hand down the death penalty for repeat drug offenders under the Act.

In the case of E. Michael Raj v. Intelligence Officer, Narcotic Control Bureau,[23] the Supreme Court held that in the mixture of a narcotic drug or a psychotropic substance with one or more neutral substance/s, the quantity of the neutral substance/s is not to be taken into consideration while determining the small quantity or commercial quantity of a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance. It is only the actual content by weight of the narcotic drug which is relevant for the purposes of determining whether it would constitute small quantity or commercial quantity.

In the case of Abdul Aziz v. State of UP,[24] the court held that if a person arrested for minor offences under the provisions of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 is entitled to bail. Section 2(a), 4(2)(d), 7A, 39, 64A, 71, 76(2)(f) and 78(2)(b) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 provides the provisions for rehabilitation and the treatment of drug addicts.

The court can award the death sentence in case of certain repeated offense (such as manufacture, production, import, export, possession, and transportation) involving a large number of drugs.[25]

In December 2007 a special court in Mumbai awarded death to Ghulam Malik, caught with 142kg of hashish in the year 2004. Around 1.8kg of hashish had been recovered from Malik on an earlier occasion.

In February 2008 an Ahmedabad sessions court sentenced Omkarnath Kak who has been caught with 28kg of charas in 2003, to death. In 1988, Kaka had been arrested for possessing 40kg of charas.

In February 2012 A Chandigarh district court sentenced Paramjit Singh who has been caught with 10kg of heroin in 2007, to death. In 1998 he had been nabbed with 1.02kg of heroin.

Through the 2014 amendment, the death penalty was made non-compulsory and an alternative punishment of 30 years of imprisonment was introduced.

Suggestions to Combat Drug Abuse and Conclusion:

Drug trafficking is worse than murder because it leads to long term harmful physical and psychological effects, the pro-death advocates hold.

“Over a period of 10 years, more than three lakh cases have been registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act but there have been just three death sentences,” the official says. “The law doesn’t seem to be as harsh as is being made out to be.”

Being so many statutory provisions prevailing in India, still, we are not able to combat drug abuse. So many of the lives and so many families are been victimized of this social evil prevailing in the society.

Some of the suggestion to curb Drug Abuse are:

  • There should be a strict check on import and export of drugs in a country,
  • It should strictly be only made available to licensed dealers,
  • More and more awareness program should be organized by the government,
  • The central government along with state government should take initiative to curb the problem of drug abuse,
  • There should be coordination between multiple bodies helping to curb drug problem.
  • Parents should interact with their children more often
  • There should be proper counseling of drug addicts
  • Laws are not enough, until and unless we as a whole do not come against human trafficking,
  • Instead of punishment from society, youngsters should be encouraged to improve themselves,
  • Family pressure should not be so much, that a person may force himself to be a part of the drug abuse,
  • Authorities should track drug peddlers located almost in every small street and they should be penalized heavily,
  • We should interact more with the people around us, as we never know who may be a victim of this evil and why they did so,
  • If we are able to recognize, victims of drug abuse at an early stage, we can take early measures to help them out from fighting this evil prevailing in society.
  • Initiative such as- “The Nasha Virodhi Lok Sangharsh Committee which was shaped in 2018, actively creates awareness about the drug abuse in more than 70 villages of the area including Sasrali, Raur, Mangli, Garhi, Hawas, Gopalpur, Mattewara, Dholanwal and shares information about drug peddler with the police to put them behind bars”[26], should be taken more often.

Taking a step forward as an individual may help our society as a whole.

[1]Studying in 2nd year BBA LL.B. (Hons.) at ‘ The ICFAI University, Dehradun’; Email- [email protected], Mobile no.- 9305024341

[2] Studying in 2nd year BBA LL.B. (Hons.) at ‘ The ICFAI University, Dehradun’; Email- [email protected] , Mobile no.- 7278672371

[3] The constitution of India, 1949

[4] ibid

[5] Article 37 of the Constitution of India, 1949.

[6] Article 47 of the Constitution of India, 1949.

[7] Entry 19, List III, Seventh Schedule, the Constitution of India, 1949.

[8] Section 80 of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (Act 61 of 1985).

[9]Reddy KSN, The essentials of forensicmedicine and toxicology, 25th edition.  K Suguna Devi. Hyderabad. 2006:p526-34.

[10]Nandy  A.  Principles of forensic medicine. 2nd Edition.  New Central Book Agency, Calcutta, India. 2000:p565-72

[11] TYPES OF DRUG ABUSE, https://journeypure.com/understanding-addiction/types-of-drug-abuse/

[12] CHALLENGING DIMENSION OF THE PROBLEM OF DRUG ABUSE IN INDIA: A SOCIO-LEGAL ANALYSIS, authored by Dharmendra Kumar Kumawat & Deepak Kumar, (http://oaji.net/articles/2017/1201-1509102311.pdf)

[13] 0Drug Abuse Causes: What is the cause of Drug Abuse?, available at: https://www.healthyplace.com/addictions/drug-addiction/drug-abuse-causes-what-is-the-cause-of-drug-abuse/

[14] ShekharSaxena, Alcohol and Drug Abuse 206 (New Age International (P) Limited Publishers, New Delhi, 1st edn., 2003)

[15] Reasons for Substance Abuse, available at: http://alcoholrehab.com/drug-addiction/reasons-for-substance-abuse/

[16] ibid

[17] What Causes Drug Abuse in Young Women?, available at: https://www.tpaddictiontreatment.com/news-events/latest-articles/causes-of-drug-abuse-in-women

[18] Section 8 of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (Act 61 of 1985)

[19] Section 2(XI) of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (Act 61 of 1985).

[20] Section 2(XXIII) of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (Act 61 of 1985).

[21]Section 31A of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (Act 61 of 1985).

[22]2012 BomCR (Cri) 121

[23](2008) 5 SCC 161

[24] 2002 CriLJ 2913

[25] Section 31A, NDPS Act

[26] https://m.timesofindia.com/city/ludhiana/ludhiana-band-of-drug-fighters-beats-back-drug-runners-in-70-villages-reforms-some/articleshow/71179381.cms

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