Shillong: Drug abuse has emerged as a serious problem in Meghalaya, with the number of users increasing 33 times in the last ten years, according to a survey.

India Drugs & Aids Care (NEIDAC) director Toshi Shanglir says the number of drug users has increased 33 times in the past 10 years.

"The total number of drug users in 1999 was just 556 compared to the latest figure which has gone up to 17, 833," Shanglir says.

The NEIDAC which carried out the survey says, Jaintia Hills district, which has coal mines and where there are migrant workers, has the highest concentration of drug users at 5398.

Ri Bhoi district has 2397 drug addicts, West Khasi Hills district 1525, East Garo Hills 1500, West Garo Hills district 1100 and South Garo Hills 800.

Shanglir says 30 percent of the addicts inject themselves, while sniffing and popping methods are also followed.

Shanglir says that according to the findings of the report, the addicts start from an early age.

"The age of initiation of over thirty percent of the drug users is found to be between 10 and 15 years. Besides heroin, ganja, cough syrup, diazepam and SP, dendrite is also one of the commonest chemical misused by the young generation," the report says.

Significantly, nearly 40 percent of the drug users are drop-outs, while 18 percent are illiterate.

"Many respondents attributed drug use in the state due to lack of parental guidance, peer pressure, enjoyment, curiosity, frustration and lack of avenues for recreation," it says.

According to the report, 40 percent of the drugs used by addicts come from peddlers, 33 percent from friends and 27 percent from pharmacies.

Quoting police reports, the survey says that the national highway 44 which runs through the state has become the main trafficking route for the drugs.

"Due to good road connectivity and lack of effective police vigilance within the state and across the international border, drugs are being smuggled and transported with ease," the survey claims.

"Trafficking of heroin and other drugs in North East India are carried out through Mandalay, Myanmar."

Drug peddlers walk eight to ten days through the forest breaching the porous border easily, it says.

The contraband is then stocked in Silchar from where which peddlers use buses and private vehicles to dispatch it, the report says.

Students, women and security personnel are used as couriers with smugglers also using nostrils, ears, and private parts to conceal drugs.

(Agencies)