Excise department enforcers in Kerala will soon use field-level test kits to detect narcotic drug impairment.
Their decision to conduct on-the-spot sobriety tests on suspected drug users comes against the backdrop of reports of endemic narcotic abuse in the Malayalam film industry.
Excise Commissioner S. Aananthakrishnan told The Hindu the gear would help officers test the saliva and urine of suspect persons for a broad spectrum of widely abused narcotic drugs.
Traffic enforcers could use the devices to recognise drug abuse among drivers who are currently checked only for drunk driving.
He said covert work was on to collect actionable intelligence on networks that supplied hashish, marijuana, LSD stamps and methamphetamine family of synthetic drugs to affluent users.
In 2014, the police arrested an actor on drug abuse charges from his flat in Kochi. However, they could not medically validate their accusation.
Excise investigators said the seizure of 14 kg of hashish from a gang in Kazhakuttom here in March had indicated a link to the entertainment industry. However, the lead was too weak to pursue.
The Kerala Film Producers Association had flagged the “drug menace” in the industry following a high-profile dispute with a young actor recently.
The Association’s treasurer, B. Rakesh, said drug abuse was a workplace issue in shooting locales and said producers could ill afford truant actors hooked to drugs.
Film director M. A. Nishad said he was against the idea of plainclothes officers sneaking around studios and spying on film locales purportedly to detect drug abuse among actors or movie crews.
The film industry was a microcosm of modern Kerala society and reflected its ills. “Drug abuse is a disease like alcoholism. Its victims should be treated and not punished”, he said.
Mohan Roy, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, and head of the Centre for Opiate De-Addiction, said his clinical experience suggested that heroin addiction and allied overdose deaths had diminished in Kerala.
However, the use of marijuana, pain killers and synthetic opioids were alarmingly on the rise among youth. Students seeking treatment for narcotic addiction were increasing, though they were just a fraction of those afflicted. He said drug abuse among artists appeared to be an emerging trend in Kerala.