Even though drug trafficking and abuse in India is not new, the country is currently facing an unprecedented crisis.
According to the International Narcotics Control Board’s annual report, the south-Asian country is not only dealing with old-age drugs like cannabis but with modern synthetic opioids such as tramadol and other drugs like methamphetamine as well.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which heads the Narcotics Control Board, further reports that Indians have embraced the use of the dark web to purchase drugs more than any other country in South Asia.
The narcotics problem in the country is heightened by the fact that it acts not only as a destination but also as a transit hub for drugs, particularly hashish and heroin.
Additionally, a worrying trend of home-grown production of low-grade heroin and prescription drugs that is encouraged by the evolving demand from international markets is on the rise.
Age of Abuse
With the advent of popular culture and the improving quality of internet access, the age of initiation continues to reduce at a high rate.
Even drug abuse is often prominent in party environments, the attention of Indian authorities has been drawn to younger, school-aged populations as well as homeless populations.
It is also worth noting that the illicit drugs are being abused by people from all backgrounds and demographics.
People higher in the socioeconomic class abuse the substances just as much as their counterparts in the lower strata do.
The increasing percentages of drug abuse cases among the younger generations, with the declining age of first contact, is attributable to modern technologies that are obviously appealing to younger consumers.
Recent cases in Hyderabad and Bengaluru depict the rampant growth of addiction and substance abuse among young people.
Proliferation of drugs from the Dark Web
While the inception of cheaper internet, digital transactions and anonymity techniques are lucrative, India suffers immense proliferation of drugs from the dark web as a result of these technological advancements.
As the popularity for abusing pharmaceutical drugs grows, potency shifts from the semi-synthetic and natural drugs like cannabis to more synthetic ones like methamphetamine, ecstasy and LSD.
A study by the International Narcotics Control Board revealed that some darknet drug vendors seem to be from South Asia.
Categorically, the quoted findings listed more than 1,000 drug operatives from India across various darknet avenues.
As a transit hub, traffickers who smuggle illegally manufactured opiates from Afghanistan to North America and Europe along an alternative southern route target India.
Other traffickers target destinations in Canada through air, as well as Europe via Africa.
The International Narcotics Control Board report cites an example in which Indian authorities brought down two illegal online pharmacies in 2017 and managed to seize about 130,000 tablets consisting of psychotropic substances.
The drug bust led to the arrest of 15 people in total.
The gradual growth in the number of substance addicts in India is an indication of a looming disaster that presents a threat to the country’s economy, international relations and stability.
In a joint operation by the Indian Army and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the authorities managed to seize significant amounts of heroin across the Line of Control and along the country’s international borders.
India is becoming one of the globe’s biggest producers of morphine-rich opiate raw materials alongside Turkey, Australia and France.
According to the report, these four countries combined accounted for up to 83 percent of the substance’s production in 2017.
With such levels of production, the DRI anticipates that the stocks would be enough to last 19 months of global demand in 2018.
It’s worth noting that while the country produces 66 tons of opium, including morphine, only a mere 10 percent of the morphine supply is used medically as anesthesia.
The remaining proportion is mostly processed into codeine, which is key in manufacturing cough medication.
Additional preparations such as Corex and Phensedyl, tramadol and pregablin are also manufactured from codeine-based cough syrups.
Prevailing Drug Market Trends in India
Social media continues to glamorize drug use in India. It is now easier to buy drugs via social platforms like Instagram, Whisper, Tinder, Wickr and other platforms than to do so offline.
App-based dealings have greater visibility and are quite convenient as customers can have their deliveries made to their offices and homes.
Wickr is reportedly one of the most popular encrypted messaging apps that local drug dealers use to transact while evading attention from authorities.
The popularity of such apps is coupled with sophisticated shipping practices used to traffic drugs in the country.
The various transportation channels range from commercial airfreight to private yachts, commercial flights and postal services.
Because of the growing demand for methamphetamine across the globe, chemical manufacturers from India alter commercial chemical factories to avail contraband amounts of precursors akin to pseudo-ephedrine and ephedrine.
It appears that dark web-related trends in India are not related to drug trafficking alone. As Dark Web News has reported, animal trafficking in the country has also been on the rise.
According to a recent report, the state lost up to $18.5 billion in 2017 due to business conducted through the dark web, with greater losses expected in the coming years.
The additional dangers posed by the dark web to the South Asian nation include trafficking of cyber arms, stolen credit card details, weapons, forged documents and child exploitation material.
Unlike centralized marketplaces that risk being scammed by admins or being shut down by law enforcement, independent vendors are much more stable and consequently more appealing to drug buyers.
Single-vendor markets are also capable of availing discounted prices to customers, which increases their popularity.
To address the drug problem, law enforcement agencies have crafted strategies that have forced some of the darknet market buyers to change their tactics.
In Hyderabad for instance, a Prohibition and Excise Enforcement (P&E) wing is ruthlessly addressing the drugs menace.
Amongst other anti-drugs drives, the taskforce launched a toll-free number to receive intelligence and further issued advisories to colleges and schools, warning them that they should monitor students’ activities.
Several local drug dealers in these areas have been forced to improve their shipping strategies in order to avoid local law enforcement.
To build a more effective system, experts advise that India consults countries like Canada about their successful cyber forensics and artificial intelligence.
The major points to pick from the UN’s analysis are that dark web drug markets are a lot more interconnected and specialized, and that globalization and technology catalyze the rising global drug trade tendencies.
Reports suggest that the Indian government, in liaison with the Intelligence Bureau, has been working to amend the Information Technology Act in a move that seeks to punish dark web activities more harshly.
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