“Drugs take you to hell, disguised as heaven.” – Donald Frost (Drug therapist)


Drug addiction is one of the alarming challenges that India is facing today. Incidents of families slipping into a cycle of debt while paying for drugs, heinous crimes being done by addicts, and innocent poor children being pushed into the hell of drugs are heard more often. This menace in reality has spread to almost all towns and even in villages than as reported on papers, making it UDTA HINDUSTAN.

Veins of addicts being swollen and punctured with needle shots, juveniles dithering for drugs, and addicts waking up every day for arranging drugs, present a scary picture of addiction fast rising to the epidemic.

The Hindu in 2022 reported of, India having over 100 million drug addicts. According to government data of 2022, 15.8 million children aged between 10-17 years are addicted to drugs. Recently in 2023 Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment quoted in Lok Sabha that in Kashmir only over 10 lakh people are in the grip of drug addiction.

According to UN World drug report 2022, India is one of the largest opiate markets in terms of users. According to NCRB report more than 60000 cases were registered under NDPS act in the year 2020-21. The TOI reported 10000 suicides in India due to drug abuse in 2021. This data itself reveals the magnitude of the drug problem in India.


Drug in general refers to any agent used for diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Drug abuse refers to the use of drugs for other than these three purposes. Drug addiction is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to the inability to control the use of legal or illegal drugs.

Reasons for the increase in drug abuse

  • Easy supply of drugs due to geographical location of India between two major opium-producing areas golden crescent comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, and golden triangle cutting across Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
  • Porous borders of India
  • Peer pressure, according to AIIMS survey, 75 percent of youths start drugs due to peer pressure 
  • Mental health disorder
  • Family history of addiction
  • India is the third largest producer of Pharmaceuticals in the world and due to lenient regulations drugs can be purchased without prescription in India.
  • Indian films and music industry glorifying drug use, further washes the brains of youth.


Cannabis smoking in India has been known since 2000 BC and has been mentioned in Atharvaveda. Earlier Opium act, 1857, then Opium act, 1878 and then Dangerous drugs act of 1930 controlled narcotic drugs. But in 1985 NDPS act was enacted and enforced to make stringent provisions for control and regulations of operations relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. 


In medical terms, a narcotic drug is one which in moderate doses dulls the senses, relieves pain and induces profound sleep but in excessive doses causes stupor, coma or convulsions.

 Acc to section 2(14) of NDPS act  “narcotic drug” means coco leaf, cannabis (hemp), opium, poppy straw and includes all manufactured goods. 

COCO LEAF  acc to section 2(6) includes the leaf of the coca plant except a leaf from which all ecgonine, cocaine and any other ecgonine alkaloids have been removed or any mixture thereof except preparation containing not more than 0.1 per cent of cocaine.

CANNABIS acc to section 2(3) includes ganja (marijuana) and charas (hashish) prepared from flowers and resins of cannabis plant respectively or any mixture of these. Act makes use of leaves, seeds and stem of cannabis plant legal thus bhang is not included in narcotic drugs.

OPIUM acc to section 2(15) means the coagulated juice of the opium poppy; and any mixture of it except any preparation containing not more than 0.2 per cent of morphine;

POPPY STRAW acc to section 2(18) means all parts (except the seeds) of the opium poppy after harvesting whether in their original form or cut, crushed or powdered and whether or not juice has been extracted therefrom.


 These are those drugs which are capable of affecting the mind emotions and behaviour. They may be legal or illicit. Illegal psychotropic substance includes any substance, natural material, salt or preparation thereof as given in schedule of NDPS act.


Section 8 of the act prohibits,

  1. Cultivation of coca plant, opium, poppy or cannabis plant.
  2. Production, manufacturing, possession, sale, purchase, transport, warehousing, use, consumption, import inter-State, export inter-State, import into lndia, .export from India or tranship of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.
  • To hold a person guilty under this section possession has to be conscious. Once an article is found in possession of an accused it could be presumed that he was in conscious possession

Exceptions to Section 8

  • Prohibition does not apply to said activity being done for medical or scientific purposes
  • Section 9 and Section 10 permit central and state governments respectively to permit, control and regulate prohibited activities by rules.
  • Production, possession, sale, purchase, transport, import interstate, export interstate or import into India of coca leaves for use in the preparation of flavouring agent.
  • Section 14 provides that government may allow the cultivation of cannabis plants for the industrial purpose of obtaining seeds or fibre or horticultural purposes.


  1. Punishment for  
  • Production, possession, transportation, import interstate, export interstate, sale purchase, warehousing, using poppy straw under section 15
  • Manufacturing, possessing, selling, purchasing, transporting, importing inter state
  • Cultivation of opium poppy, or production, manufacturing, possession, sale, purchase, transporting, importing interstate, exporting interstate or uses opium under section 18
  • Production, manufacturing, possessing, selling, purchasing, transporting, importing interstate, exporting interstate, or using cannabis under section 20
  • Manufacturing, possessing, selling, purchasing, transporting, import inter-State, exports inter-State or using any manufactured drug or preparation containing any manufactured drug under section 21
  • Manufacturing,  possessesing, selling, purchasing, transporting, imports inter-State, exports inter-State or using any psychotropic substance under section 22
  • Illegal import into India, export from India or transhipment of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances under section 23,

done in contravention of NDPS act shall be,

  • where the contravention involves small quantity, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to 1 year or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both; or 
  •  where the contravention involves quantity lesser than commercial quantity but, greater than small quantity, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10  years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees; or 
  • where the contravention involves -commercial quantity, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to twenty years and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees but may extend to two lakh rupees.

Small and commercial quantity of various narcotic and psychotropic substance is notified by central government through official gazette.

  1. According to section 16 punishment for cultivating any coca plant or production, possessesing, selling, purchasing, transporting, imports inter-State, exports inter-State or using coca leaves in contravention of NDPS act shall be rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
  2. As per section 20 punishment for cultivation of cannabis plant shall be rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years and fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
  3. Section 27 provides punishment for CONSUMPTION of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

In case of cocaine, morphine, diacetyl-morphine or any other narcotic drug or any psychotropic substance as may be specified on this behalf by the Central Government by notification in the Official Gazette, punishment shall be rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees; or with both; and in any other case, imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months. or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both.

  1. Act provides for enhanced punishment after previous conviction and in certain cases enhanced punishment can even extend to death penalty.


Act provides for stringent punishment extending to even death penalty at discretion of judge. It makes offence under the act cognizable and strict approach is to be followed while granting bail. Act presupposes the guilt of accused. Section 35 presumes that accused under the act had the intent, motive and knowledge of his actions. Further, section 54 presumes that accused was in possession of illicit articles unless contrary is proved. 

Despite acts being strict, drug abuse is still rising. The reasons for this are,

  • Drug peddler slip via legal loopholes as police while conducting raid is required to take residents with them to witness arrest. These witnesses usually turn hostile in court fearing threats.
  • Although act provides for creation of special courts to deal with cases, but in many states these courts have been given additional responsibility causing delay in trial.
  • Section 64 A provides that drug addicts who choose medical treatment are exempt from prosecution if charge is of consumption or involves small quantity of drugs, but this immunity have been denied to most of the accused due to technical reasons.
  • There appears failure on the part of police department in effective monitoring for activities prohibited under the act.
  • Accused involved in consumption or dealing with small quantity are prosecuted under the act but the big fish engaged in supplying and dealing in commercial quantity are often not caught.
  • With advancement of technologies drug traffickers have chosen online platforms and encrypted communication channels, making the tracing and control difficult.
  • Weak intelligence and information sharing mechanism provide opportunity to drug traffickers to slip from eyes of law enforcement agencies.
  • Under section 37 bail can be granted to accused under the act if court is satisfied that there exists reasonable grounds for believing that accused is not guilty of alleged offence and is not likely to commit offence while on bail. There is no definition as to what constitutes reasonable grounds and courts are often seen following lenient approach in granting bail which raises serious consequences of evidence being tampered, recidivism, deterrence undermined etc. 

Addressing the issue of drug abuse requires a multi-dimensional approach involving effective enforcement of law, education, social support systems, and better rehabilitation facilities. There exists a need to tackle the root cause of drug abuse and prevent it along with punishing accused under the act.

The article is authored by Bhoomi Patel, she is a 4th year, B.A.LL.B.(Hons.) student in School of law, D.A.V.V.