New Delhi: Indians’ online shopping carts include not just kitchen essentials and fashion binges but also psychotropic substances, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has noted in a report that seeks to highlight the trafficking of drugs through the internet.
Released in New Delhi Tuesday, the 2018 Report of the International Narcotics Control Board says Indians are using “illicit internet pharmacies” — particularly those on the darknet — to get their hands on drugs like cocaine, heroin, cannabis, methaqualone, and ketamine.
“The examples of the trend of ordering substances online and using courier or mail services for delivery could also be found in India, where the practice has been noted by authorities as one of the emerging means of trafficking psychotropic substances,” the report adds.
Psychotropic substances are those that impact a person’s mood, emotions or behaviour.
As an example, the UN report cites a February 2018 seizure of 200 tablets of “nitrazepam, a benzodiazepineclass drug, concealed in a courier parcel originating in the United States”.
Nitrazepam is a powerful hypnotic, which is known to “shorten the time required to fall asleep and lengthen the duration of sleep”.
Talking about the trafficking of “prescription medicines containing psychotropic substances, in particular, tranquillisers”, the report notes that one “of the primary ways of accessing such substances in India is reportedly through illicit internet pharmacies”.
It also noted the presence of India-based players who peddle illegal drugs to the rest of the world.
In 2017, it said, “authorities in India dismantled two illicit pharmacies selling drugs over the Internet, seizing close to 130,000 tablets containing psychotropic substances and arresting 15 people in the process”.
“Another study of the global Internet-facilitated illicit drug trade identified some online vendors of drugs over the darknet who appear to be operating from South Asia,” it added. “More specifically, the study identified more than 1,000 drug listings from India published across 50 online crypto-market platforms.”
The emergence of internet pharmacies in India, as well as the trafficking of drugs through the darknet, has been on the radar of the Narcotics Control Bureau for several years now.
Darknet refers to portions of the internet that lie off the map, accessible only through special permissions and specific software.
“This trend raises concerns in terms of the potential of the ‘darknet’ to attract new populations of users by facilitating access to drugs in a setting that, although illegal, allows users to avoid direct contact,” it noted in its annual report in 2017, which also listed two instances from the year where the bureau busted illicit internet pharmacies.
Cannabis is top-used drug in India
Cannabis, commonly known as ganja, is the most frequently-used drug in South Asia, particularly India and Sri Lanka, according to the report.
“Cannabis remains the most frequently-seized narcotic drug in South Asia and the herb was seized in the largest quantities across the region in 2017,” the report added.
According to the UNODC’s estimates, India carried out 6 per cent — amounting to nearly 300 tonnes — of the world’s cannabis seizures in 2016, with a 20 per cent spurt in confiscations between 2016 and 2017.
However, seizures of cannabis resin, popularly known as charas, have largely remained stable over the years, at 2 to 4 tons annually between 2013 and 2017.
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