GUWAHATI: To thwart the sale and consumption of liquor, the Mizoram government had re-imposed prohibition in May last year but drugs – considered an alternative – continued to claim the lives of people.
As the Mizoram-Myanmar border has remained sealed due to Covid-19 pandemic which curbed the smuggling of drugs from across, “withdrawal symptoms” are claiming the lives of drug addicts.
According to official sources, a whopping 45 drug-related deaths were recorded in the first eight months of this year. The deceased were taking drugs for a long time. The first such death in the state was recorded in 1984 and since then, 1,624 people died.
Mizoram has the dubious distinction of being the country’s highest HIV prevalent state. It, on average, records nine HIV positive cases every day. Drugs – heroin included – are smuggled from Myanmar but as the international border has remained sealed, the addicts are going through a harrowing time.
“Most of the drug-related deaths this year were, possibly, due to the withdrawal symptoms. I cannot say emphatically that there is no supply but since the border has remained sealed, supply from Myanmar has been very less,” Assistant Commissioner of Excise and Narcotics, Peter Zohmingthanga, told this newspaper.
The Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act was legislated in 1995 and enforced in 1997 till 2014. So, the sale and consumption of liquor was prohibited in the state for 17 years. After retaining power in 2013, the then Congress government had notified a new law “Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Act, 2014”. It allowed the sale and consumption of liquor but with restrictions. When the Mizo National Front (MNF) returned to power after a gap of 10 years in 2018, the party fulfilled its pre-poll promise by restoring total prohibition.
Zohmingthanga said during the period of total prohibition (1997-2014), a lot of youth had taken to drugs and many died.
“They took to drugs as an alternative as liquor was not available. After prohibition was partially lifted (by Lal Thanhawla’s Congress government), there was not a significant rise in the number of new users of drugs,” Zohmingthanga said.
He said 1990-2005 was the period when the abuse of Spasmo Proxyvon capsules was massive. Those years, most drug-related deaths were due to the abuse of Spasmo Proxyvon capsules. Heroin is smuggled from Myanmar. Once it reaches Mizoram, the prices go up significantly, Zohmingthanga said.
Urban and rural Mizoram contribute to an equal percentage of the cases. What is imperative is a massive campaign to tackle the menace, he categorically stated.
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At 2.04%, Mizoram has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the country. It is followed by Manipur (1.43%) and Nagaland (1.15%). The first HIV positive case was recorded in 1990 and since then, over 20,000 such cases and more than 2,000 deaths have been recorded.
The Assam Rifles guards the international border. The Mizoram Police also have their surveillance posts. During his meeting with Assam Rifles Director General Lt Gen Sukhdeep Sangwan on Wednesday, Chief Minister Zoramthanga had stressed on better management of the border to thwart drug-smuggling.
Total deaths due to drug abuse till date – 1,624
First such death recorded in 1984
- 2010 – 16 (13 males, three females)
- 2011 – 12 (all males)
- 2012 – 45 (39 males, six females)
- 2013 – 37 (29 males, eight females)
- 2014 – 38 (36 males, two females)
- 2015 – 27 (24 males, three females)
- 2016 – 59 (50 males, nine females)
- 2017 – 65 (53 males, 12 females)
- 2018 – 56 (44 males, 12 females)
- 2019 – 55 (42 males, 13 females)
- 2020 (till August) – 45 (41 males, four females)