At a time when drug addiction is on the rise, villagers in quaint Jharag have waged a war on ‘chitta’, a highly addictive synthetic drug made from heroin and other substances.

The panchayat of Jharag in Shimla district’s Jubbal and Kotkhai assembly segment has brought a resolution to reward people providing information about drug peddlers active in the area. Jharag is famous for its local deity Nageshwar Devta’s temple and has a population of about 1,800. The panchayat comprises five villages.

“For quite some time, reports have been pouring in about drug peddlers from nearby areas trying to lure the youth from our panchayat to buy drugs. Some unknown vehicles which do not belong to the locals have been frequenting the villages as well,” said panchayat pradhan Ashok Sarta, adding that drug addiction was certainly a cause of concern

“The panchayat passed a resolution with unanimity to fight the drug menace and also expose the peddlers from nearby villages and panchayats,” he said. “The panchayat will reward those giving information about the drug peddlers. We have also formed a team of teenagers from different wards to keep tabs on the addicts as well as the local smugglers and suppliers,” Sarta added.

The use of drugs has increased manifolds in the urban as well as rural regions of the state. According to a survey of the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, the prevalence of the usage of charas and ganja is 1.2% in the country, while it’s higher than the national average at 3.2% in Himachal Pradesh. Similarly, the use of opioids is 2.8% in Punjab, 2.5% in Haryana, 2% in Delhi and 1.7% in Himachal Pradesh against the national average of 0.7%.

But a dangerous trend in recent years has been the shift of the users to chemical drugs. According to the health department’s reports, there are nearly 1,170 patients (drug users) lodged in 27 de-addiction centres in HP.

The count of those addicted to chitta (also called diacetylmorphine, a semi-synthetic adulterated form of heroin) has surpassed that of cannabis (charas) and other hard drugs as 34.61% of the addicts in the centres are chitta consumers.

Another major cause for concern, according to the same report, is that the highest number of addicts are in the age group of 15-30 years.

“There been a significant rise in the consumption of synthetic drugs among the youths. Not only boys, but girls too are falling prey to addiction,” said Dinesh Sharma, head of psychiatry department in the state’s premier institute Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC).

The hospital runs a special outdoor patient department (OPD) for addicts on Saturdays. “The trend of using injectable drugs is growing among the youth, particularly in the age group between 17 and 25 years,” he said. It is also leading to increase in liver-related diseases like hepatitis C, he added.

With illicit drug trade on the rise, Himachal Pradesh Police had re-devised its strategy to catch smugglers and keep track of addicts.

HP director general of police Sanjay Kundu added ‘Register 29’ in all police stations to track addicts and offenders booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

The station house officers (SHOs) concerned maintain the register and create a database for analysis and better prevention of drug trafficking.

The prevalence of drug addiction and trafficking is more among those aged between 26 and 35 years, who comprise 37% of the total people booked under the NDPS Act.

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