New Delhi: Social justice and empowerment minister Thawar Chand Gehlot said over 16 crore people in the country consume alcohol, around 3.1 crore use cannabis and about 77 lakh people take opioids.

Gehlot was making a statement in response to a calling attention motion introduced by BJP MP RK Sinha.

Alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used by Indians followed by cannabis and opioids, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Thursday (July 4).

More than 5.7 crore alcohol users, 72 lakh cannabis users and about 77 lakh opioid users are addicted and need help, the minister said.

Gehlot said the findings were part of a national household survey conducted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2018.

"The report establishes that a substantial number of people use psychoactive substances in India and the substance use exists in all the population groups with adult men bearing the brunt of substance use disorders," Gehlot said.

The survey also indicates that around 1.18 crore people between the age group of 10-75 years are taking sedatives and 77 lakh are using inhalants.

Children and adolescents were found to be using inhalants more than others.

Gehlot said the household sample survey covered all the 36 states and union territories of the country.

It was done in collaboration with the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), 10 other medical institutes and a network of 15 NGOs.

Over 1,500 personnel were involved in the data collection from population of age group between 10-75 years, he added.

During the survey over two lakh households were visited in 186 districts of the country and a total of 4,73,569 individuals were interviewed, he added.

Gehlot said the government is also conducting a survey in ten cities across the country to assess the pattern and profile of substance use among school and college students.

The study is part of a national survey conducted last year.

"Total sample size for this survey would include 6,000 students and 2,000 college students. The report of this survey is expected to be received by November this year," he said.

The study covers cities like Srinagar, Chandigarh, Lucknow and Ranchi.

Elaborating on various actions being taken by the government to curb the drug addiction menace, Gehlot said it has prepared a National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) for the period 2018-2025.

As part of the NAPDDR, the ministry is undertaking focussed intervention programmes in 127 high-risk districts, he added.

During 2018-19, the government released Rs 112.33 crore for the programme while in the current fiscal an outlay of Rs 135 crore has been allocated, Gehlot said.

Initiating the discussion on the matter, Sinha said the problem of drug addiction has reached even villages with many children falling prey to the menace. He sought capital punishment for the people involved in the drug trade.

Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M) said that efforts need to be put in to make the educational campuses more vibrant in order to check the problem.

TKS Elangovan (DMK) sought severe punishment for people involved in the narcotics trade. D Raja (CPI) said the problem also needs to dealt at social level.

Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD), Veer Singh (BSP), Vijaysai Reddy (YSRCP), A Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK), Ravi Prakash Verma (SP), Sushil Kumar Gupta (AAP), Shamsher Singh Dullo (Congress), Kahkashan Perween (JDU) and Ram Vichar Netam (BJP) among others, participated in the debate.