Heroin seizures rise in Mizoram after ban on opioid painkillers

Church sceptical of link, contends allowing liquor sales hasn’t curbed drug use The quantity of heroin seized in Mizoram has increased steadily since 2014 when the State government replaced total prohibition with controlled prohibition. While enforcement officials attribute this trend to the 2013 countrywide ban on the sale of painkiller capsules containing the opioid Dextropropoxyphene, the Church — influential in Christian-dominated Mizoram — is sceptical about this “theory”. The heroin seizures, the Church argues, have undermined the government’s contention that liquor helps wean people off drugs. Sleuths of the Mizoram Excise and Narcotics Department seized 3.126 kg of heroin in 2014, the year Lal Thanhawla’s Congress government enacted the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Act to end 18 years of a church-enforced ban on liquor consumption. From a little over 4 kg in 2015 and 2016, total seizures in 2017 rose to 6.186 kg. And this year, with 6.173 kg having already been seized till October, the figure is only going to be higher. “We have reasons to believe the seizure and consumption of heroin have increased because addicts no longer get painkillers such as Spasmo Proxyvon, Parvon Spas and Spasmocip with high Dextropropoxyphene content… banned five years ago,” said Ngurchungnunga Sailo, Mizoram’s Commissioner of Excise and Narcotics. Officials said addicts emptied the capsules’ contents into a solution and injected it into their bloodstream for a high. While the opioid fix cost an addict Rs. 50 at most, a gram of heroin in Aizawl or elsewhere in Mizoram costs as much as Rs. 4,000. Though pharmaceutical firms in India stopped production of the capsules containing Dextropropoxyphene in 2013, the products have kept entering the market — with 4,034 capsules seized in 2017, down from 2016’s 7,400. “Fortunately, Mizoram does not have an organised drug-dealing network,” Mr. Sailo said, adding: “Individuals smuggle the narcotic drugs in from Myanmar.” Apart from locals, Myanmar nationals are also involved in peddling drugs. Out of the 553 people arrested under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 this year, 23 were foreigners. Excise officials said there is no scientific evidence yet to link the seizure of drugs with the government’s alcohol policy. Church ‘vindicated’ But the church, which had in the run up to the November 28 Assembly election in the State urged the political parties to push for prohibition, is convinced that availability of liquor does not necessarily check drug abuse. “We engaged university teachers for a study on the effect of controlled prohibition,” said Reverend B. Sangthanga, executive secretary of the Mizoram Synod of the Presbyterian Church. “The finding was that liquor really damaged the Mizo society in terms of depleting finances, domestic violence, increase in drug abuse and HIV/AIDS cases,” he observed. The government, for its part, commissioned a study by a 27-member review and evaluation committee, which examined the advantages and disadvantages of opening wine shops in the State. The study, tabled in July, found that for every Rs. 1 of revenue earned from alcohol, an estimated Rs. 2.85 was being spent on social costs.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/heroin-seizures-rise-in-mizoram-after-ban-on-opioid-painkillers/article25645719.ece

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