A national survey that identified 11,420 injecting drug users in Meghalaya has strongly recommended the need to conduct state-level surveys to identify priority districts for countering drug abuse.

According to the report, there are an estimated 8.5 lakh people who inject drugs (PWID) across the nation, of whom 11,420 are in Meghalaya.

The survey was conducted last year among 4.73 lakh individuals in 186 districts across the country by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in collaboration with the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi.

High numbers of PWIDs were found in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur and Nagaland.

However, the NDDTC report recommended state-level surveys as identifying more-affected districts in Meghalaya was beyond their mandate.

“For this purpose, state-level surveys will have to be conducted which can identify the priority districts within the state,” it said.

The report stated that specific population groups such as prison inmates, school and college students, transport workers, homeless people, sex workers, and transgenders have their unique challenges and were not adequately covered under the populations studied in the survey.

Based on the report, the ministry had also decided to consult the state governments and other stakeholders including NGOs and drug de-addiction centers for formulating guidelines for an action plan to counter drug abuse.

NGOs working towards rehabilitating drug users in Meghalaya have expressed concern over the state government’s failure to come up with the latest survey report even after a gap of 10 years.

The last survey was conducted in 2009 by the North East India Drugs and Aids Care (NEIDAC). As per their report, the number of drug users in Meghalaya had shot up to 17,833 in 2009, an increase of 33 times than 556 in 1999.