“I smoked heroin for a long, long time but since two years I only inject. It’s cheaper and somehow the same,” said Darminder, his clothes and body marked by an seemingly endless life on the street, his eyes sad and tired by years of constant pharmaceutical drug abuse. A few hours later the 17-year-old boy from Bihar was dead. In an argument about money for more drugs, he was brutally beaten by supposed friends and was left to die in a dirty alley next to a waste picker colony. The police later had him dumped at the local hospital’s morgue and he, as many others, disappeared far before his time. Darminder became a victim of a medicine actually produced for a different purpose; to ease pain, to heal, to help people.
While worldwide the numbers of heroin users is constantly increasing, another much more disturbing form of drug abuse is growing steadily, yet largely unrecognized. Pharmaceuticals, especially opium derivatives, meant for a totally different clientele, are on the rise to dominate the drug market in 3rd world and threshold countries. Either the medicine is copied from the original product and reproduced in underground labs or dubious agents of pharmacy companies strike deals they were never supposed to. In the end, the offered product is meant for one purpose only, to make money by exploiting the user’s addiction.
In the India of the 21st century, this kind of drug abuse has become a disturbing phenomenon leading to catastrophic consequences. While the homeless people of every age tranquilize their daily struggle other clients have entered the stage a long time ago: from simple day laborers earning a small living for their families while working at the nearby, gigantic, vegetable and fruit wholesale market, to municipal employees easing their responsibilities in the job with a little injection here and there. What was once unimaginable, especially in a life full of social and religious responsibility, has become a sad reality.
The choice of drugs available is vast and offers everything, for everybody, for every circumstance of life. Purchasing these drugs is as easy as buying cough syrup at the supermarket and one just has to pass by at one of the many pharmacies spread all over the big cities and small villages to purchase whatever one feels like. The medicine, not supposed to be given to anyone without prescription from a doctor, is sold for a price even the poor can afford. An ampule Buprenorphine (a semi-synthetic opioid actually used to treat opioid addiction), an ampule Diazepam (a benzodiazepine derivative drug also known as Valium), an ampule Avil (a antihistamine which lessens the side effects of the two other drugs) and two disposable syringes are sold for 50 Rupees, a little less than 1 USD.