Narendra_Modi 750

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during a video conference speech on October 5, 2017 that society would be “ruined” over the next 20-25 years if growing substance abuse and addiction among younger Indians was not checked.

“If we let this grow, then in 20-25 years, our society will be ruined,” he said. “If such addiction enters our youth and our families, it will pain our older generation a lot.”

We found Modi was right in expressing concern.

As many as 22.4% (1 in five) people over 18 years suffer from substance-abuse disorders (SUDs), according to the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 (NMHS). The survey was conducted by National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), based in Bangalore, among 34,802 individuals across 12 states.

The prevalence of SUDs was 13.54% among those aged 18 to 29 and 24.58% among the 30-39 age group.

Psychoactive SUDs include alcohol, opioids, cannabinoids, sedatives and hypnotics, cocaine, other stimulants, hallucinogens, volatile solvents and tobacco.

The study found that tobacco-use disorders account for 20.9% of SUDs, more than any other disorder, followed by alcohol (4.6%).

Males (35.7%) were struck more by SUDs than females (10.05%), as Modi said.


Source: National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 Note: All figures in percentages.

The per capita consumption of alcohol in India has increased 38%, from 1.6 litres in 2003-05 to 2.2 litres in 2010-12, according to this 2014 World Health Organisation (WHO) report.

More than 11% of Indians were binge drinkers-the practice of consuming large quantities of alcohol in a single session, usually defined as five or more drinks at one time for a man, or four or more drinks at one time for a woman--against the global average of 16%, IndiaSpend reported on May 25, 2016.

Substance-Use Disorders, By Age Group
Characteristics Prevalence of any substance use disorder
Total 22.44
Age Group
18-29 13.54
30-39 24.58
40-49 29.21
50-59 29.4
60+ 27.78
Male 35.67
Female 10.05
Rural 24.12
Urban non- metro 20.27
Urban metro 18.28

Source: National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 Note: All figures in percentages

Rajasthan (38.9%) reported the highest rate of SUDs, followed by Madhya Pradesh (36.6%) and Chhattisgarh (32.4%), the survey found. Punjab, a state infamous for high drug-addiction rates, reported a prevalence rate of 11%.

There are nearly 230,000 opioid dependent and 860,000 opioid users in Punjab, according to the 2015 Punjab Opioid Dependence Survey, IndiaSpend reported on February 3, 2017.

Substance-led disorders were higher in rural India than urban, metro and non-metro areas, since an average household in rural India spends more money on alcohol and tobacco than on preventive healthcare, according to a survey by Chrome Data Analytics and Media, which tracked 50,000 villages across 19 states, Quartz India reported on November 1, 2016.


  1. The Youth in India 2017 report by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation defines youth as those aged between 18-34 years.

  1. Prevalence rate refers to prevalence of SUDs among the surveyed population in these states.

(Saha is an MA Gender and Development student at Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.)