Claiming that tobacco consumption was a gateway to drug addition, public health experts have urged the State government to step up tobacco control measures and effectively implement the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COPTA) 2003. Addressing presspersons on International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking which is observed on June 26 every year, Vishal Rao, senior oncologist and director, Tobacco Control Project at the Institute of Public Health, said that health experts across the world have found that tobacco consumption is a gateway to illegal drug use.

“Tobacco consumption is a significant predictor of both the possibility and frequency of other drug use. As cigarettes and other drugs complement each other, initiating tobacco control measures such as having higher price could significantly reduce illicit drug use,” he said.

Pratima Murthy, professor of psychiatry, said that substance abuse was now prevalent among a younger age group. Echoing Dr. Rao’s views, she said that the earlier a person uses tobacco, the more likely he or she would experiment with cocaine, heroin or other illicit drugs.

A study from the John Hopkins School of Public Health also states that those who smoked cigarettes before the age of 15 were up to 80 times more likely to try illegal drugs that those who did not.

Besides drugs, Dr. Murthy also said that patients were also addicted to sleeping pills and sedatives. “These can cause infections as well as non-communicable diseases. They could also cause sexual dysfunction,” she said.

Jagadeesh, a psychiatrist said that substance abuse had to be looked at as a medical

Ujval Shankar, who gave up the drug habit in 2003, said that he initially experienced strong withdrawal symptoms but with a steady diet, meditation and breathing techniques, he was able to quit drugs.

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