Cannabis and Culture: Impact of Drug Policy on Drug Use and Drug Trade



Molly Charles




Thesis is submitted for the degree in Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology to University of Pune. 




Under the guidance of Dr. K.S. Nair

Department of Anthropology

University of Pune

Pune –411007

October 2004









I, Molly Charles, solemnly declare that this thesis entitled Cannabis and Culture: Impact of Drug Policy on Drug Use and Trade, which I am submitting to the University of Pune, Pune, for Ph.D. Degree has been entirely prepared by me. All the information, data, analysis and other materials included in my thesis are mine. Whenever I have borrowed from other sources through review of literature, the same has been acknowledged as per the required format of referencing. In case any plagiarized material including data, information and analysis is found in the thesis I am solely responsible for the same. Dr. Nair, my guide/supervisor bears no responsibility in this regard.


I also declare that, this thesis is a product of the research work carried out by me and that no part of this thesis has been presented earlier for any degree, diploma, or similar title to any University



Dr. K.S. Nair                                                                                 Molly Charles   

Deputy Director General-Research                                     Research Student   




Place: Pune





















This is to certify that this Ph.D. Thesis entitled Cannabis and Culture: Impact of Drug Policy on Drug Use and Trade is the research work of Molly Charles and that it has been carried out by her under my supervision






Date                                                                           Dr. K.S. Nair (Rtd)

Place: Pune                                               Head of Dept. Anthropology,                          

                                                                   Department of Anthropology

Pune University


                                   Present Designation                                   

                                                              Deputy Director General,                                                                                          Research.













Table of Contents


    1. Cannabis and Culture: Impact of Drug Policy on Drug Use / Abuse



         Problem                                                                                               29

         Theoretical  Perspective                                                                    35

         Schema of Drug Effects                                                                     39

         Schema of Drug Effects within Indian context                                 45

         Concepts Used                                                                                               47

         Broad Descriptive Hypothesis                                                                       51

         Scheme of Thesis                                                                               51

         Conclusion                                                                                           55


    2.  Methodology


        Approach Selected                                                                              57

        Research Sites                                                                                      61

        Rapport Building                                                                                   68

        Methods of Interviewing                                                                       71

        Limitation                                                                                                73

        Relevance                                                                                             74   

        Selection of Informants                                                                    74

        Data Analysis and Presentation                                                          74

        Conclusion                                                                                             75        


3.  Role of Psychoactive Substances in Religion and Asceticism


        Saivite Samnyasis and Asceticism                                                    78

        Locale                                                                                                   84

        Use of Psychoactive substances in Religious Context                   88

        The group under study –saivite samnyasis                                     89

        Role of Psychoactive substances in Asceticism                              94

        Role of Drugs in Spiritual Search                                                   102       

        Pattern of Drug Use among samnyasi community                         105                          

        Transference of Religious Use to general public                           115

        Conclusion                                                                                          120






   4.    Socio-cultural use of Psychoactive Plant Products


        Psychoactive Plant Products and their Non-Psychoactive Uses        124             

        Socioal context of Cannabis use                                                          126

        Social context for consumption of Poppy Plant Products                   130

        Psychoactive Plant Products as a Relaxant                                       132

        Use of Psychoactive substances in Traditional Systems of

        Medicine                                                                                                         137

        Medicinal Use of Psychoactive Plants                                                  142     

        Practitioners of Traditional Systems of Medicine                                 146  

        Use of Psychoactive Plants by Traditional Practitioners                     147

        Source of Psychoactive Plant Products                                                148

        Conclusion                                                                                                153  


             5. Impact of Criminalisation on Drug Use and Drug Trade


        Creation of New Norms through Criminalisation                                 155

        Transferring the criminal Approach to Society                                    165

        Religious Use and Criminalisation                                                        174

        Socio-Cultural Use and Criminalisation                                                182    

        Impact of Criminalisation on Drug Trade in the Urban Context         186

        Criminalisation and its Impact on Urban Context of Drug Use          198                                            

        Criminalisation and Graduation in Drug Use                                       201

        Marginalisation and Entrenchment in Crime                                       209

        Conclusion                                                                                               219


       6. Impact of Drug Policy on Cultural  Use Management                                               


        Presence of Use Management and its disintegration                                   223

        Creation of Deviants and resultant Alienation                                   230 

        Increasing Scope of trade through alienation                                   234

        Expanding drug trade and criminalisation of social fabric                236

        Conclusion                                                                                        238  














List of Illustrations/Tables




           Title                                                                              Page Number


1.      Schema of Drug Effects                                                                     44

2.      Adapted version of De Rios Schema                                               46

3.      Map of Junagadh  district in Gujarat state                                       63                                         

4.      Map of Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh                                        65

5.      Mumbai city Map in Maharashtra                                                     67

6.      Use of Psychoactive Plant Products for common ailments         148

7.      Punishment under NDPS Act based on

      quantity seized                                                                                  164

8.      Schema of Drug Effects within the Indian context                                    240



Abbreviation (Key)


          Expanded Form                                                     Abbreviation

Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome                                       AIDS

Human Immunodeficiency Virus                                                     HIV

Mind Altering Substances                                                               MAS

Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic                                     NDPS, Act 1985

Substances Act, 1985

Non- Governmental Organisation                                                   NGO

National Institute of Social Defence                                                            NISD    

Traditional Systems of Medicine                                                     TSM                                                                 

World Health Organisation                                                              WHO

World Trade Organisation                                                               WTO













The journey to arrive at this thesis has been long and an enriching experience. It began even prior to my registration as a Ph.D. candidate. It is my interaction with Dr. K.S. Nair in the capacity of a research advisor to National Addiction Research Centre (NARC), where I worked earlier the prompted me to do a Ph.D. research. His critical inputs facilitated in understanding the relevance of the present drug policy and bring forth some suggestions so has to address the contradictions in the drug policy. I would like to thank Dr. K.S. Nair for his active support at all stages of the study. In addition to his analytical input, it is his emotional support during stages of crisis, where I felt that the thesis would never come to an end that has been crucial in completing the study.


I would also like to thank Dr. Ram Gambhir, Head of the Department of Anthropology, Pune University for his support in facilitating the successful completion of this research study. I thank Pune University for providing me an opportunity to do academic research and hope the opportunity has been constructively used towards some benefit for society at large and drug users in particular.



In addition to the present research, years of work in the area of Drug Addiction as part of National Addiction Research centre facilitated this thesis for it provided an understanding of the complex drug situation in Indian and role of International drug policies on the same. I thank the input provided by Gabriel Britto, Director NARC, Mumbai, for he provided critical input and opportunity to explore various aspects of Drug Abuse Management with regard to different issues related to drug use and in the area of drug trade. Opportunity to do research was provided by International Federation of Catholic Universities (Paris) and UNESCO-MOST (Paris). Research undertaken as part of NARC was facilitated both by Dr. K.S. Nair and Gabriel Britto and that has contributed towards the present research.


The present study that focussed on collecting information on sensitive issues was made possible because of the willingness of samnyasis, practitioners of traditional systems of medicine, drug users and individuals in criminal activities to share information. Their magnanimity has been crucial for the data collection process. This was further facilitated by the support A.A. Das, Dr. Masihi, Mr. Bhaskar, Mr. Muthu who provided the connecting link with different groups. Dr. Udaya Mehta, J, P. Vijayakumar, and Daniel Pinto supported the process by giving their insights on specific issues. 


Access to research material is crucial to sharpen any search and at times resource materials are not easily accessible within India. Besides, it is difficult and expensive to purchase them at the personal level. Laurent Laniel (DRUGSTRAT, Paris) suggested relevant books, provided the material, gave space to go through them and our discussion facilitated in arriving at a better understanding- - thank you!


For their unconditional support and encouragement I thank my parents, P.A. Charles and Daisy Charles. I thank my siblings Vimal Charles and Andrew Mohan, my sister-in law Grace Andrew for their support. Thanks is very much due to my nephew Quentin and niece Gale for their tolerance when I occupied the computer on continuous basis interfering with their time for computer games. The support of Muneera and her children and Ishwar Desai and family facilitated me to go through tough times in Mumbai while struggling to complete the thesis.



Place: Pune                                                                             Molly Charles

Date:                                                                                 Research Student                                                                                    

























Addas : Drug dens where brown sugar (crude form of heroin) and other     

synthetic drugs are sold.


Akhada: The word though translated as monastery, must be distinguished                 

from it for Akhada is  a centre where only Naga samnyasis are inmates. It is only those Naga Samnyasis  who are attached to the particular akhada’s  who can be the inmate of the respective akhada.    


Amal      The local name for opium, which means rule or control.


Ashram: Religious residential place


Augharas or Aghoripanithi:A practitioner of Aghora, which means `non-terrifying’. It is one of the extreme among various sects of ascetics.


Ayurveda: A branch of traditional system of medicine, it is a Sanskrit word meaning `science of life’ or `longevity’.


Bairagis: Samnyasis who worship Lord Vishnu


Barella: filled in, here referring to cigarettes filled with brown sugar or crude heroin.


Bhagats: Devotees of samnyasis.


Bhajans: religious songs


Bhang            :   A drink or paste made from tender leaves of cannabis plant         


Brahmins: The upper caste members who also belong to the priestly caste


Brown Sugar: Adulterated crude form of heroin sold in Mumbai


Chandukhannas: A place where opium was sold and where there was space for smoking as well. At times cannabis was sold along with opium.


Charan : A member of the Bardic caste, who composed verses during  dayaro session held by Rajputs in Gujarat.


Charas:Hashish, which is made from the resin  of the cannabis plant and it is the most potent of cannabis products.


Chella            A devoted disciple, who gives himself/herself totally to the teacher


Chillum: A pipe used to smoke marijuana or hashish mixed with tobacco. It is three to six inches long, and straight with the width tapering from a wide     

bowl to a thin mouth.         


Corex: A brand name for a cough syrup, which also contains codeine.


Danda: A staff carried by student samnyasis who also belong to the upper caste.


Dandis: Means one who has a staff, usually a Brahmin initiate. He or she carries always carried the staff and discarded it on leaving the house of the teacher.


Darsana: The flat ear ring worn by Kanphata Jogis.


Darshan: Go to worship at the temple          


Dasnami: The school of saivite samnyasis who has ten orders as organised by Sankaracarya.


Datura: Thorn apple, it is rich in delirium and delusion producing tropane alkaloids.       


Dayaro: Group gathering held among Rajputs in Gujarat during which opium                     drinks are consumed.


Dhunni: The fire tended by a samnyasi. A samnyasi is said to                                     sit `on’ his dhunni, meaning close to it, concentrating on it,


Dhyana: Meditation


Digambara    Signifies Lord Siva in his naked form, it means `He who is clothed with space (naked).


Diksha: Initiation into savite smanyais sects


Diwali: Festival of Lights


Doda Pani     Drink made by soaking poppy pods overnight in water.


Durga Puja   The festival celebrated predominantly in Bengal to worship Goddess Durga, the consort of Lord Siva. She got her name Durga for she slew an asura named Durga


Duseera: Festival celebrating victory of good over evil, it is same festival as Druga Puja celebrated in West Bengal.


Ganja: The local name for marijuana which consists of the flower tops and leaves of cannabis plant.


Gard: Local name for brown sugar or crude heroin.    

Gardulla: Local name for brown sugar users, used in a derogative manner.         


Guru: The teacher who is crucial for sadhana  and he/she dispels darkness


Gurugadhi: The place where the Guru sits and it also represents the power attached to the position. This position is handed over to the disciple, chosen by the Guru.


Hakims:  Practitioners of traditional systems of medicine       


Holi: Festival of colours


Jains:  They are followers of Mahavir, the last and best known of all saints among Jains. It is said that Parswanatha, who is blue in colour with a snake is the founder of Jain sect. He was an ascetic born in Benares.


Janmashtami: The birthday of Lord Krishna who is the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu.


Japa:  Systematic repetition of a mantra of sacred name.      


Kamandalu: Water pot, carried by Lord Siva


Kanpata Jogi:  Kanpata Jogis stands out marked from other Nathpanthis by the large earrings or ear discs which they wear in the hollow of the ear. At the last stage of initiation


Kasumba Pani: A drink made from opium, it also contains saffron and cardamom


Kumbha Mela: Mela meaning getting together in mood of festivity. Kumbha  refers to pot. Kumbha mela is supposed to represent the celebration of the occasion when nectar of immortality was obtained.


Kund: Pond


Kundala: The round earrings worn by Kanpatta Jogis


Lambanis: A community in Karnataka which has cultural use of  cannabis.


Linga: Male generative organ worshipped as a phallic symbol. Linga is the symbol of Lord Shiva.                                                      


Madak : It is raw opium that has been obtained through recurrent washing filtering.


Mahabag: Is a cocktail of different types of drugs ganja, charas, datura, pincers of scorpion, skin of cobra, english  liquor, Mauva  liquor


Mahachillum : Is a chillum containing five different drugs to be smoked together by  saivite samnyasis



Mahadev: Another name for Lord Siva which means the great deity of Lord Siva.


Maharaja: A term of respect often used to address a religious person.        


Mahashivaratri: The great festival of Lord Siva and it occurs on the night before the new moon during the lunar month of Magaha (February or early March).


Mahtama: An enlightened soul


Mal: Stuff, here representing brown sugar


Mandir: Temple


Moksha: Salvation or nirvana


Naga Samnyasis: The class of samnyasis who received their name after their chief characteristic - nakedness. Naga means naked or snake. They are                                       worshippers of Lord Siva.


Naisthika Brahmacaris: A person  who confirms to life long Celibacy.


Nasha: High                                                            


Nathpanthis  samnyasis:  Ascetics who are followers of Lord Siva and also  worship Gorakhnatha  and describe themselves as Gorakhapanthis. They are known for their expertise in physical exercise and exercise of mental control leading to total concentration. 


Pani: Silver foil used for chasing brown sugar or crude heroin.


Paramahamsas:  An ascetic or a person who having realised the identity of the individual soul with the supreme soul could be called the supreme discriminator.


Prasad: Any substance, usually food but includes psychoactive substances, which has been offered to a deity or saint, or to the image of the deity or saint, and which is then partaken by a disciple or devotee.


Pudis: The unit in which brown sugar is sold on the streets of Mumbai it is supposed to contain 250mgms. It also means small packet.


Puja: `Ritual adoration’, especially of a deity or guru with objects symbolic of purity, divinity or grace such as flowers, incense, sweet fruit, coconut etc.                                     However puja can also be performed mentally


Rig Veda/Rg Veda: Path of Jhan or Knowledge


Rishis: Means Seer, anything a Rishi sees or experiences becomes a reality,

because a Rishi is an ethereal being of highest class, one who is almost totally unlimited, one who can travel anywhere in the cosmos and do                                     anything at all.


Rogu: Local name for opium granules


Sadhana: Any spiritual exercise.


Saili:  The sacred thread worn by Nathpanthi


Saivite Samnyasis:  Ascetic who are disciples of Lord Siva


Sam Veda : Path of Bhakthi or devotion


Shankranthi :Harvest Festival


Shivaratri: Festival of Lord Shiva.


Siddh: Having miraculous powers


Siddhi : Is a Sanskrit word for `perfect abilities’ or  `miraculous  powers’ that must inevitably be renounced and overcome it to attain Samadhi or union with Absolute.


Siddhar:  An `accomplished one’. Anyone who has obtained Siddhi or supernatural accomplishment, is a siddhi.


Siddha: Traditonal system of medicine that originated from Dravidian civilisation and practised in Southern part of India.


Siddha Sangam: Sangam means academies that originally existed before 1000 BC, the first known member being Agastiya, who is the known member of Siddha medicine. At present the term is used to represent the academic council of Siddha practitioners.


Singanada: A whistle made of buck of a rhinoceros, worn by Nathpanthi on the sacred thread around the neck.


Soma: Is the drink of the Gods, the God of the intoxicating juice who resides in the plant itself.


Tantric Samnyasis : The Yogi or Jogi who practice appellation Consisting of a number of  postures, exercises and certain mental control leading on through meditation to absolute concentration. This group of  saivite ascetics can also be known as Tantric Samnyais. It is also said to represent Siddhas in North.


Tapas :`Heat, austerities penance’. Kamas (desire/passion) are burned away  by  tapas. Tapas etymologically means heat and significantly its practice is described in Sanskrit in terms of root `tap’ to get heated.   


Tibbi :Traditional system of medicine  originating from Tibet.


Tilak: Religiously significant marks made on the forehead or other parts of body, with different powders, sandalwood and ashes.


Tulsi: Holy basil.


Udasin: A reformist sect of saivite samnyasis who also initiate members of the lower castes  and Muslims to their sect.                     


Unani: The Arab system of traditional form health care


Vaidhyans/Vaids:  Practitioners of traditional systems of medicine.            


Vedas:  Sacred knowledge or wisdom    


Yajur Veda: Path of Karma or action


Yogi: One who is given to the practice of Yoga and in Northern part of India Yogis are also known as Jogis.


Yoga:  Disciplining the body for various purposes, physical, mental and spiritual and meditation.



































The use of psychoactive substances for various purposes within a given socio-cultural context has been documented in different societies across the globe. The present approach to drug abuse management assumes that all forms of drug consumption are deviant or criminal behaviour and ignores the socio-cultural context of drug use.


It is this contradiction that formed the basis for this research study on cannabis and culture with specific emphasis on the impact of drug policy on drug use and trade. In order to explore various forms of use that exists within India, the study utilised the qualitative approach with data collected through field observation and interviews with informants.


For providing a theoretical base to the inquiry, the schema of Drug Effects put forward by De Rios (1975) was used and the same adapted to explore drug use within religious context of India. Data collected on religious and socio-cultural context of drug intake is contrasted with the data obtained on use of hard drugs within the context of the punitive approach to drug control. The study focussed on presenting another schema for Drug Effects within India context.


The first two chapters of thesis present a broad outline of the study and elaborate on the methodology of the study undertaken. The religious context of consumption has been explored with regard to specific sect of saivites samnyasis (ascetic followers of Lord Siva) and their interaction with others in society. Within the religious sect data was specifically collected with regard to understanding the role of psychoactive substances in the life of the ascetic and the process through which they are oriented to group ideology with regard to psychoactive substances and how they internalise the same. Analysis of various antecedent factors was done to explore the role it plays in evolving drug effects within the religious context.


Consumption of psychoactive substances in the socio-cultural context explored different forms of use both for psychoactive and non-psychoactive purposes. With regard to consumption for psychoactive properties the role of drugs as a relaxant during a social get together, festivals were examined, in addition to its use merely as a relaxant in daily life. The medicinal use of psychoactive plant products within the traditional system of medicine is another issue focussed upon. The basic emphasis was also to explore how within the context of punitive approach these forms of consumption continue to survive and the hurdles faced in the process. Data on different forms of religious and socio-cultural context of use presents the existence of cultural use management.


Data collected on the use of hard drugs within the context of criminalisation address the impact of the drug abuse policy on the drug use situation and its implication for patterns of use and impact on the lives of drug users. It is the process of marginalisation of drug users that is starkly different from the social acceptance given within the religious and socio-cultural forms of consumption.


In addition, the impact of drug policy on drug trade was explored, for the stated goal of drug abuse control has been to eradicate drugs.  The study explores how the process of making drugs into contraband has led to the introduction of new forms of hard drugs for marketing at the street level.  It is profit and the possibility of being able to evade the law that plays a crucial role in the choice of drug for marketing.


The entire process of criminalisation has led to a spread of drug use and the entrenchment of drug trade within society though there is a variation between rural and urban areas. The outcome of policy intervention by and large has been that cultural use management get transformed into drug abuse management.


Cannabis and Culture: Impact of Drug Policy on Drug Use/Abuse Management



This study focuses on the role of culture in shaping various facets of drug use within India and changes brought about in them through the criminalisation of drug use and trade. The issues addressed here include the use of cannabis and opium for religious, social and medicinal purposes and the culturally embedded regulatory mechanisms that evolved through centuries. It then further elaborates on the impact of the national drug policy on both cultural and non-cultural patterns of use in rural and urban settings.


A review of global literature looking at prehistoric artefacts and historical drug use indicate that the use of mind altering substances has existed across cultures for many centuries. Studies undertaken in different societies, illustrate the use of cannabis, opium, coca and peyote for religious, social, medicinal and mind-altering purposes (Rubin (a) 1975; Palgi 1975; Codere 1975; Wilbert 1975; Rubin (b) 1975; Chopra et. al. 1990). An indepth understanding of drug use in history within different settings is hampered by the limited artefacts that created the basis for diverse claims and thereby, conflicting views on the issue. Overall, there has been no dispute regarding the cultural use of psychoactive substances and about its functional role being determined by socio-cultural reality. This in turn has led to diversity in the use of mind-altering substances and opportunities for cultural diffusion have not eradicated the diversity in drug use pattern (Blum 1969). 


The role of socio-cultural factors in shaping the use of psychoactive substances has been studied within the Indian context by social scientists (Hasan 1975; Chopra 1990; Herer 1991; Masihi et. al. 1994; Shrivastava 1989; Masihi et. al. 2001; Machado et. al. 1994 and Hasan 1975).


In order to illustrate the role of socio-cultural factors, some of these studies are elaborated here. A study of drug use in Jhodpur (Rajasthan) indicated: Traditionally, use of opium had been closely integrated with social, economic and cultural infrastructure of the society. It was intimately related to the social rituals, religious beliefs and social and economic conditions of the region (Shrivastava 1989:135). Another study on the use of cannabis in Karnataka, (Rao 1994:3) pointed out, Distribution of ganja (marijuana) occurs (in a particular community of Lambanis) during the ceremony of marriage. It has been also found that such distribution of ganja is related to the prestige of the family. If it were not performed, the families would be looked down upon. In this area, another cultural sanction for drug use is indicated, during the festival of Saint Shishunal (considered a reincarnation of God), every devotee considers ganja smoking, a religious obligation (Machado 1994).


The cultural use of psychoactive substances provide a certain socio-cultural context for drug use specifying the profile of the community members granted the sanction to consume the substance/s. Regulations with regard to the use of mind altering substances encompass the type of substance, the form sanctioned for intake, the quantity consumed, mode of consumption, the setting for its use and the profile of users.


The study of opium use in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, (Shrivastava 1989:135) indicates the presence of cultural regulation with regard to use of the substance, Culture and tradition have a role not only in contributing to the drug use pattern but also in screening and limiting the potential drug user, as well as specifying the occasions on which the drug should be used. This is the reason, why, by and large, the problem of opium abuse had been traditionally confined to the adult male population of the region.


Norms with regard to the use of psychoactive substances within the socio-cultural context; in addition to regulating pattern of the use, they provided space for members to be enculturated to specific forms of use. Deviation from the sanctioned forms of use was restricted by group pressure either through disciplinary measures by senior members of the community or by ridicule. This is so in the case of cannabis use in Karnataka (Machado 1994) and opium use in Rajasthan. With regard to opium use in Rajasthan, (Shrivastava 1989:135), Culture and social tradition limited the frequency and quantity of opium use in the region. Opium taking behaviour had to confirm to social expectations any violation of these norms, or its use in excess amount constituted deviant behaviour.


In Gujarat opium use occurs in a group setting (Charles et. al. 1994:72-73), Opium was consumed as a drink in gatherings called dayaro. Usually these gatherings were attended by men of the same or similar status. Opium was provided by the host and it could not be refused by the members of the gathering, for it would be considered an insult to the host. When Kasumba Pani[1] (drink made from opium) was served in the cup of ones palm, the person to whom it was given allowed some liquid to flow out with the help of his finger, so that he did not get an overdose of it, as opium drink was served more than once during the sitting.


Unlike norms based on socio-cultural reality, introduction of hard drugs (derivatives) led to an initiative aimed at creating universal norms of control that focused on the criminal approach to restrict drug use and trade. Studies have explored the creation of present criminal approach that exists in most countries (Brunn et. al. 1975; MacAllister 2000; Nadelmann 1990). The initial momentum for adopting the criminal approach came from America, where the rationale for alcohol prohibition lost ground but drug control continued to focus on abstinence. This approach to drug control emerged in America, more, out of concern for the intermingling of races rather than a concern over drug use itself.  Cannabis and opium was seen as creating a setting for intermingling of races. The American approach subsequently became the basis for international drug policy and thereby affected all countries, including India.


 Groups in the medical community, reformers in the progressive movement, moralistic anti-vice crusaders, muckraking journalists, and racist and nativist groups who feared that America would be mongrelized and contaminated by drug consuming `inferior people were all intent on establishing some kind of regimen for drug control. Their various struggles merged in the early decades of the century to forge a new public judgement on drug use (Bertram et. al. 1996:62-67).


At the international level it was trade interests that dictated American policy, for though United States had a trade potential, its world position was minor to the Colonial empires and it is through a strong anti drug policy that it managed to win the china market. (Musto1972,cited in Cohen 1990).


The efforts led to the creation of Pure Food and Drug Act, 1906, The Harrison Act, 1914 and later to a punitive approach to drug control. As the prohibitionist approach gained support, the Narcotic Control Act in 1956 raised the mandatory minimum penalties (five to twenty years for second offence, ten to forty years for the third offence) and permitted juries to impose the death penalty on any adult who sold heroin to a minor (Bertram et. al. 1996: 83-84).


The rationale for the harsh legislation of the in United Sates was that it was meant to eradicate drug use and trade, but that was not achieved. Instead the law became a tool whereby the marginalised and excluded could be put behind bars. As drug crime is a felony, it gave a momentum to the process of making the excluded population powerless. This trend is seen from a profile of individuals likely to be arrested for drug crime.


In United States the number of prisoners in State and Federal prisons doubled from the year 1973 to 1983, it reached 1,408.685 in 2003. It has been indicated that crime in the United States has decreased but drug related arrests have been climbing steadily. Since 1980 the number of drug prisoners has increased sevenfold, and the chance of a black Americans being caught for the crime is higher. Data indicates that an American born in 1999 has about one chance in twenty to spending some of his or her life in a correctional facility. At the same time for black Americans, the chance increases to about one in four (Gray 2001)


The shift towards a punitive approach to drug control attains significance because of the impact seen on drug users and those from marginalized segments of the society. The development of a market in private prison showing that ‘zero tolerance’ policy can be profitable, brings on an unexpected twist to the debate about discriminating drug use. The spectacular growth of the American Prison population, largely due to the anti drug laws enacted during the last 20 years, has resulted in the creation of private firms specialising in building and managing prisons. These’ correctional corporations’ are paid between US $50 to $150 per day per inmate from the budgets of states, counties or cities in order to manage the prison on their behalf (Laniel 2001:55).


The changes that occurred in international drug policy also affected Indian drug policy. In India, for centuries, Cannabis sativa has been used for various social, religious and medicinal purposes. The Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) 1985, placed cannabis and opium among illicit drugs. When the Government of India, signed the Single Convention, 1964, it accepted the international decision to phase out the cultural and non-medicinal use of cannabis and opium in twenty-five years, but then did nothing about it (Charles et. al. 1999:68-69).


The criminalisation of drug use through drug policy and concurrent legislation is an attempt to create uniform formal norms for drug abuse management across the globe. The attempt aimed at creating a cultural convergence at controlling drug use, whereby cultural differences could be done away with, through legislation. But, both at the national and the international levels, it created a situation where different cultures have had to adapt to or resist change with regard to the use of psychoactive substances. Culture is dynamic and flexible, and it offers scope for its members to modify conduct by changing guide, rules or plans. Change is a slow process, but culture is not always adjustable to change, it can resist or adapt to change.


There have been hurdles in this attempt at cultural convergence, be it a result of the economic obligations involved in the adaptation or the resistance to change, or the tendency to conserve cultural norms because of the extent of existing integration and emotional attachment to customs. The attempt at cultural convergence at the global level, by powerful nations led to other countries, even those with a history of cultural mechanisms of control, passing legislation for drug abuse management at the national level contradictory to evolved local wisdom with regard to drug use/abuse management. This is clearly seen in the Indian context with regard to its drug control policy.


The new legislation created a need for appropriate social constructs to facilitate the implementation of the law, the creation of the concept of addiction with its criminal, moral and disease dimensions. The presence of harder drugs with pharmacological properties, quite capable of creating physical dependence, gave further ground to strengthening the concept of addiction and addicted personalities. At present, the term put forward by World Health Organisation (WHO), ‘dependence’ is gaining acceptance over the term 'addiction'[2].


Along with the concept of addiction there emerged theories on addiction that fell short because of their monocausal approach to the issue and failure to establish correlation between cause and effect. Theories focused on the pharmacological properties of the drug or personality deficiencies or dysfunctional family relationships to explain away the use of psychoactive substances. Some of these theories focussed on drug use and environmental deficits. The failure to explain drugs in terms of a monocausal approach led to the trend of presenting multidimensionality in drug taking behaviour. 


In countries with a socio-cultural acceptance of the use of psychoactive substances, new formal norms based on criminalisation of drug use created a complicated situation; it diverged from the norms that existed within the cultural context.  In India, there existed informal norms of cultural control (though now criminalized by present legislation) that followed, by and large, formal guidelines. These cultural mechanisms of control that emerged through the years was ignored by National drug policy based on international policies focused on a punitive approach to drug control; whereas cultural forms of control had created a cultural framework for drug use management which emerged from within the socio-cultural reality of the community.


 The base for criminalisation of drug use was to control drug intake within the given society. At the same time, studies undertaken in countries without a cultural base for use showed that the absence of realistic formal norms and the presence of unclear informal norms made it difficult to establish regulatory measures for drug control (Zinberg 1984). According to him rules formulated by legislation and institutions are all part of formal norms and it is informal norms that act as guides for interaction between friends or siblings in non-formal situations. It is this informal interaction that governs drug use probability in varied contexts. 


The present research, studies the role of culture in drug use management as it existed within traditional societies and as it exists today among cultural groups in different parts of India. In order to understand drug effects and its management within the cultural context, the conceptual schema forwarded by De Rios (1975) has been used. According to the schema put forwarded by De Rios, the impact of drug effects is an interaction between antecedent factors and consequent variables. Under antecedent factors, De Rios has included socio-cultural, biological, psychological and cultural aspects identifying consequent variables as being the physiological impact of the drug. This study additionally focuses on the impact of the drug policy on ground reality, to look at whether it has changed cultural mechanisms of control. In case there has been a change, its implication on the socio-cultural regulatory mechanisms and process of drug use management.  On the other hand, if the impact of legislation on cultural norms has been restricted; the manner in which the impact of criminalisation of drugs covered by cultural norms has been dealt with and the implications of the drug policy on cultural use of drugs?


The study also addresses; issues of persistence of cultural forms of use and the continuation of cultural mechanisms of control with regard to drug use in religious and other social-cultural contexts. It also looks at the effects of criminalisation of cultural use and the role of the punitive approach in strengthening a networking of criminals and drug users of both traditional and synthetic/derivative drugs.


Change in behaviour is facilitated by economic viability, relevant when the social situation is in a flux and cultural norms of control do not have a strong hold over its members. Besides, adaptation is not a matter of choosing the most efficient alternative, but may be a compromise between limitations imposed by the pre-existing culture and the opportunities presented by new conditions (Barrett 1991).


It is common to find societies making piecemeal or makeshift adjustments that allow them, to preserve familiar institutions and to take advantage of new opportunities simultaneously (Barrett 1991). Elements from the past that persist will inevitably set limits to future flexibility.


The very act of criminalisation made drug trade a viable commercial activity, and being a criminal activity it slowly established links with the existing criminal networks. The trade came to be dictated by the profit margin of the commodity, the quality of the drug and strategies to corrupt the government machinery for drug control. This was not in line with transactions that existed prior to the period, where the sale of psychoactive substances was but a part of other economic ventures undertaken by the dealer.


The present study therefore, also looks at the growth of drug trade and the changes that occurred after the introduction of the NDPS Act, the process through which the trade has been reintegrated into or grown with the support of the system. The entire process of criminalisation of drug use and drug trade and its relevance in controlling the drug situation is elaborated upon here to understand in its totality the impact of the present drug policy.



The study analyses the role of culture in drug use management, with regard to cannabis/opium plant products and the impact of the present drug policy on drug use management. In addition, it focuses on the impact of drug policy on consumption and trade of derivatives and synthetic drugs within the Indian context.  For this purpose it focuses on the norms that existed to regulate drug consumption in the cultural context and the relevance of this strategy of control in the present legislation and policy, especially given the use of and trade in, hard forms of drugs. Research questions that facilitate this search are presented below.


To understand the role of culture in drug use management in India, the study focuses on cultural use of cannabis/opium in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.  Gujarat was selected as a site for studying religious use, as it is an important pilgrimage centre for followers of Lord Siva[3] and the meeting place for all saivite samnyasis[4] to celebrate Mahashivaratri[5].  The researcher has conducted a study on drug trade in Himachal Pradesh, which brought forth the relevance of looking at the socio-cultural context of use in the case of cannabis and opium in the Himachal Pradesh (Charles (a) 2001). The role of psychoactive substances within the traditional health care system in India is also looked at, focussing on the practice of traditional systems of medicine.


The broad research question focuses on three areas (1) Socio-cultural use of drugs within the religious community of saivite samnyasis (2) Socio-cultural use of drugs outside the religious community in India and (3) Impact of criminalisation through the present drug policy on drug use and trade within and outside the cultural context.


1.      Use of drugs in any form has been criminalized by the present drug policy. However, there exist cultural sanctions for consumption of drugs in the religious context. While the legislation views all forms of drug use in a negative manner, in the case of culturally sanctioned religious use, the concerned psychoactive substance is worshipped as a gift to mankind. Through the process of cultural sanction there evolved norms with regard to type of drugs consumed, forms of consumption and setting for drug intake. Against this background there evolved a process to orient its members to group ideology or norms and on its role in their search for enlightenment. Unlike this, existing literature on drug abuse management focuses on the adverse impact of drug use in all forms and present methods to abstain from drug use. While religious use considers psychoactive plant products to be a means to facilitate attainment of spiritual goals, drug abuse control programmes consider any form of use as a step towards becoming addicted.


  Specific research questions are

·         What are the normative practices of drug consumption among religious community?

·         What are the underlying concepts, which contribute to religious use of drugs?

·         What are the regulatory mechanisms and rituals that surround drug consumption?    

·         What are the ways in which the religiously sanctioned drug use orient its members to group ideology and norms?

·         What is the role of drugs in the search for spiritual goals among saivite community?

·         What is the process through which normative practice of drug consumption among religious community is communicated to the rest of the society,


2.      To understand the role of norms in regulating drug use within the socio-cultural context, but outside the religious community; the study focuses on social, religious and medicinal use of psychoactive plant products. The present approach to drug control provides no scope for the rational social or religious use of psychoactive plants. At the same time cultural sanction provided scope for a normative manner of drug consumption within the religious and social context. Besides, the consumption of psychoactive plant products for religious reasons, as a means for celebration and as a relaxant; culture also evolved ways of utilising its medicinal properties as part of the Indian Traditional Systems of Medicine (TSM). Other uses of psychoactive plant products have been for production of fibre, fabric and as a means to deal with extreme climatic conditions.


Specific questions for research are

·         What have been the non-psychoactive uses of psychoactive plant products?

·         What are the social cultural contexts for consumption of psychoactive plant products?

·         Is there sanctioned use of psychoactive plant products as a relaxant or for its mind altering capacity?


3.      To understand the relevance of present drug policy the study focuses on the impact of criminalisation on, drug use and trade within and outside the cultural context. In order to put in place a criminal approach to a culturally sanctioned behaviour, the policy had to implement a legislation that put forward new constructs as to: What is a drug? Who is a drug user? What activities can be considered to be part of drug trade? In order to ensure compliance the present legislation introduced punishment for non-compliance. As legislation and its enforcement are not adequate to erase cultural sanction; the system put in place institutional infrastructure at the national level, and through its programmes transferred this new understanding or body of knowledge about drug abuse and its management. The criminal approach for management of all forms of drug consumption and the mechanisms of use management that evolved within cultural framework were criminalised.  The attempt of  the present drug policy was to eradicate all forms of drug use and trade both within and outside cultural context.


Specific questions for research are:

·         What are the mechanisms put in place in order to ensure that a criminal approach to drug abuse management is implemented?

·         What has been the impact of present criminal approach to cultural forms of drug consumption?

·         What has been the impact of criminalisation on drug trade in the urban context?

·         What has been the impact of criminalisation on drug use in the urban context?

·         Has the approach of criminalisation been able to control drug use?

·         What has been the impact of criminalisation on the drug user?


II. Theoretical Perspective

Studies undertaken in different settings have documented the use of psychoactive substances within the religious, social, functional and medicinal context. The religious use of cannabis has been documented in Nepal (Fisher 1975), in Jamaica (Comitas 1975), and in Mexico (Garcia 1975).


Mexican Indians use Psilocybin which is derived from a sacred mushroom known to them as tenonanacatl `the flesh of God’; this cult which has come to be named `cult of the sacred mushroom’ still exists in Oxxaca. Another   psychoactive plant used by Indians of the southwest and Mexico for communication with divine world is peyote cactus. The active substance that has been identified from the cactus is mescaline, a chemical of the amini group which is quite easily synthesised. Eating of the dried button of the plant is the principal sacrament of the Indian church known as Native American Church of the United States (Watts 1962).


Based on his study on cannabis in Nepal (Fisher 1975: 249-250) said: Many of the holy men use cannabis, claiming that it helps them to overlook the discomfort of living in conditions alien to them - such as cold weather- so that they can concentrate on higher matters

Lord Siva is frequently depicted with a bowl filled with herbs under his arm as one of the emblems of the mendicant and there is a traditional association between Lord Shiva and cannabis. For saivites, smoking cannabis is a way of offering it to Lord Siva. But in interviews with samnyasis at Pashupatinath the holiest Hindu shrine in Kathmandu, it became apparent that cannabis use is by no means confined to members of saivite sect. On the contrary, samnyasis who used cannabis belonged to a wide spectrum of Hindu sects. It is the combination of the general austerity of asceticism, the unaccustomed climatic rigor, religious belief which produces conditions in which the use of cannabis is almost a professional technique.


The social use of opium has been documented in Gujarat (Charles et. al. 1994:  72-73) Opium as a drug found a very fertile soil in the region. Opium forms part of the lifestyles of various segments of Saurashtra society. In the local language opium was called ‘Amal’, which in other words means rule or control. There were two ways in which opium was consumed. One was the popular upper-caste method of consuming it in a liquid form. Individuals, who earn their daily bread, chew granules of opium, known as rogu.


In India, traditional systems of medicine use both cannabis and opium products as ingredients in medicinal preparations, for human and cattle, Medicinal use of cannabis (Chopra et. al. 1990:168) has been described as follows: Cannabis is used in Ayurveda and Tibbi medicines as an anodyne, hypnotic, analgesic, and as antispasmodic. In rural areas it is the remedy in prophylaxis and treatment of dyspepsia, pain, rheumatism, dysentery and diarrhoea, hysteria, gonorrhoea and cholera.  He further elaborated on opium use, Opium is prescribed by Tibbi physicians for relief of pain in the head, eyes, ear, teeth and joints; drying of catarrh, allaying of cough, asthma and hiccup; treatment of maniac delirium and inflammatory conditions of the brain; treating diarrhoea and dysentery; treatment of paralysis, facial paralysis, epilepsy and similar nervous conditions, and curing intermittent fevers (Chopra et. al. 1990:185).

According to a study undertaken among practitioners of traditional systems of medicine (Masihi et. al. 2001:43), In the month prior to the interview 52 vaids and hakims had together treated 989 patients (an average of 19 patients per practitioner). In the medicines that they gave 802 patients, 81% contained either opium or ganja or their combinations in various forms.


It is through the process of enculturation that the individual as a member of society imbibes customs, values and moral precepts with regard to different human behaviour including drug use. Culture can be defined as the system of agreed upon meaning that serve as a recipe or guidelines, for behaviour in any particular society. The agreed upon meaning is transferred both through overt learning and subtle learning, the latter through unconscious imitation by the transmission of cues from one individual to another or from symbols expressed in myth, art, literature and rituals. Subtle learning of cultural use of cannabis can be seen from religious texts, songs on cannabis and also religious idols, which have either cannabis leaves or the smoking pipe as part of the idol. A clear example, of this association is seen in the worship of the idol of Parappaswamy, a holy man, who used cannabis to enhance his religious insight. In his idol, he is shown smoking cannabis and this is worshipped by people in a village in Karnataka (Machado 1994).


The relevance of the socio-cultural environment in understanding drug use has been highlighted by other scientists. Weil (1972) pointed out that drug taking is a complex phenomenon and understanding it requires knowledge of more than drugs. Every drug experience reflects a user’s expectations and experiences with regard to a chemical substance, as well as the setting where a chemical substance is used, with whom, when and why; and the entire socio-cultural environment and its repository of meanings.


In addition to this Social construction of drugs and drug users have powerful influences on how people act, and these social constructions are flexible and ever changing. The transformation of the usage of cocaine use from a harmless recreational activity to a dangerous, if not deadly, addiction was accompanied by shifts in the symbolization of both cocaine and its users (Scheibe 1994, cited in Curra 2000:162).


In order to understand the role of culture in determining drug effects and settings or pattern of use within the context of use management in India, we utilise here the schema put forth by De Rios (1975).


III. The Schema of Drug effects

De Rios (1975) has put forth the schema for understanding drug effects within the cultural context, according to her, antecedent factors interact with consequent effect of the drug, which are previously established as per the local wisdom of the society. It is based on the interaction between antecedent and consequent factors that one can attempt to predict new or not yet verified relation and obtain useful theory of drug effects. According to De Rios (1975) antecedent factors occur in four general areas, biological, psychological, social-interact ional and cultural.


 III.1. Biological Antecedents

Studies undertaken in different locations within Africa and South America, document the role of biological antecedents in determining drug effects. In the African continent, among Shagana-Tsonga of the northern Transval, the use of hallucinogens is crucial to achieve a religious experience during female initiation at puberty.  At a girl’s puberty rite the plant Datura fatuosa is administered to young women ceremonially in order to ensure communication with an ancestor God who grants fertility (Johnson 1973, cited in De Rios 1975)


Myerhoff (1975) elaborated on how peyote is used among Huichol Indians. He showed how the cultural expectation from their hallucinogenic experience along with the recurrent possibly pan-cultural mystic vision that provided a touchstone for their world view and facilitated the participants attainment of a spiritual state whereby the person achieves a communion of sorts with deities. The ritualised pilgrimage lasts for several weeks. During this period pilgrims endure many privations to attain a spiritual state. They forego or minimise human physiological needs as much as possible- sleep, sexual relations, excretion, eating and drinking are actually or ritually foresworn.


III.2. Psychological Antecedents

Among Shagana-Tsonga, the initiation rite for a girl at puberty involves ritual activities prior to the ingestion of the datura plant in order to condition the attitudes, expectation and motivation of the initiates towards achieving certain culturally valued goals- namely fertility by worshiping the specific God. During the ritual, an initiate at first lies in a quasi-foetal position on a palm-leaf mat, during a dance which simulates childbirth. Stereotype visions as well as auditory hallucinations are important to the young women. Hearing ancestral voices, while under the effects of drug use is a cultural goal highlighted during the symbolic ceremonial activity. This is the part of the life cycle emphasised by the puberty school in preparing initiates for marriage (Johnson 1973, cited in De Rios 1975).


III.3. Social-Interactional

The structure of the group, the relationships of the members present and their role interactions, will affect the impact of the drug. The ritual performance itself and the presence of a guide skilled in the use of the drug are important factors to consider in any attempt to predict drug effects. Group use in the presence of a skilled guide facilitates the person to learn the ways of the animals they hunt, to understand the divine future and to be able to communicate with the supernatural (De Rios 1975). The rain forest group, the Amahuaca, use hallucinogen ayahuasa[6] for culturally specified goals namely, to obtain insights into the habits and peculiarities of the animals they hunted, as well as to facilitate inter-group relations and aid them in achieving political harmony (Cordova 1971, cited in De Rios 1975). Among Shagnana-Taanga when the plant is administered to the initiates, the females leader officiating suggests to the girls that they will hear the voice of the ancestor God (Johnson 1973, cited in De Rios 1975). 


III.4. Cultural Antecedents

Shared enculturation in belief systems is crucial to success in guiding an experience. A shared symbolic system guides individuals through a particular drug experience in order to achieve culturally valued goals. Expectations of the visionary experience that surrounds drug use are often the raison d’être for non-western drug experience, for which prior socialisation in this area is crucial to shamanic success. In certain cultures, adjuncts are used to strengthen the drug effects. Among the Shagana-Tsanga along with drumming and special music each initiate in turn is wrapped in a multi-coloured blanket to facilitate drug experience of hearing ancestral voices. The initiate during puberty rites see mavalavala –bluish green coloured patterns, which is similar to the common house snake in this area and which is believed to be reincarnation of the ancestors. This vision is believed to hasten the hearing of ancestral voices which assure the initiates of fertility (Johnson 1973, cited in De Rios 1975). 


An ethnomusicologist’s analysis of tropical rain forest music from ayahuasca session found that music can play a crucial role in bridging ordinary and non-ordinary realms of consciousness (Fred 1971 cited in De Rios 1975).

















Schema No: 1

Schema of Drug Effects

Antecedent Factors



































An anthropological Schema of drug–induced hallucinations (De Rios 1975:413).






IV. Schema of Drug Effects- within Indian context.

This is a point of departure from De Rios schema (1975) for it is used to create an adapted version, which considers the religious, social and economic aspects of cultural use and mechanisms of use management within the Indian context.


The present study provides the adapted schema of De Rios which has been used in order to understand cultural use within the Indian context and limited to understanding drug use within the religious context.


Given the punitive approach to drug abuse management within the Indian context, the legislation put in place has criminalised all forms use including culturally sanctioned consumption.  It is based on the changes that have occurred through criminalisation that a new schema of Drug effects within the Indian context is put forward. The schema presents the impact of punitive approach on cultural use management in Indian context and resultant impact of drug policy on drug use and trade both within and outside the religious context.
















Schema No 2

Adapted Version of De Rios Schema


                Antecedent Factors





























V. 1. Culture

Culture is defined as systems of agreed upon meaning that serve as recipes or guidelines for behaviour in any particular society (Barett 1991). To say ‘agreed upon’ is equivalent to saying symbolic since a symbol is something whose meaning is bestowed by those who use it (White1940:453). This symbolic capacity is a distinguishing characteristic of all human beings, whereby they are able to bestow meanings on things and acts and then to live according to them.


V.2. Enculturation

It is the process through which an individual as a member of society imbibes a set of customs, values and moral precepts with regard to different behaviours including drug use.


V.3. Traditional Drugs

Psychoactive plants and their natural products which are used in cultural context are termed as traditional drugs. The main substances referred to are cannabis, charas (hashish), poppy plant, opium, poppy straw and datura.


V.4. Hard Drugs

It refers to derivative drugs of psychoactive plants products and synthetic drugs that are chemically processed based on the molecular structure of derivative drugs or its manipulation.



V.5. Addiction

It is the progressive disease of consuming alcohol or psychoactive substances, where the causal agent is the substance and drug use is a compulsive behaviour. The only cure is total abstinence.


Addiction is a cluster of physiological, behavioural and cognitive phenomena of variable intensity, in which the use of the psychoactive drug (or drugs) takes on a high priority. The necessary descriptive characteristics are preoccupation with a desire to obtain and take drug and persistent drug-seeking behaviour. Determinants and problematic consequences of drug dependence may be biological, psychological or social and usually they interact (UNIDCP 1997).


V.6. Social Constructs

Transformation in social thought grounded in fundamental changes to social life, structure and ideological conditions in society.

Social construction is an on-going process of building worldviews by the individual in a dialectical interaction with society at any time.


V.7. Formal Norms

Zinberg (1984) defined rules formulated by legislation and institutions as part of formal norms.


V.8. Cultural Norms

The norms which are not institutionalised and govern use of psychoactive substances within the cultural context.


V.9. Cultural Use Management

This refers to the process through which cultural norms have put in place regulatory mechanisms that restrict drug use.


V.10. Drug Use Management

It is a cultural guide of control consisting of informal norms and adaptation of formal or legislative measures towards restricting the use of psychoactive substances.


V.11. Drug Abuse Management

Programme focussing on control over the use of and trade in drugs based on the assumption that drug use is a disease and a criminal act; and drug trade is a crime.


V.12. Drug Laws

Legislative measures created at the national level in accordance with the international treaties and conventions with regard to drug use and trade. In India it is called Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.


V.13. Deviance

Deviance is a social construction that emerges from social differentiation, social conflict, and social disagreement (Curra 2000:16) 


According to Becker deviance is not a quality that lies in the behaviour itself, but in the interaction between the person who commits an act and those who respond to it. Once a person is labelled as a deviant with reference to a certain rule, people automatically assume that the person possesses other undesirable traits too. Deviance is created by making rules whose violation qualifies as deviance, and involves the identification of rule breakers, and treating them as outsiders (Becker 1963:9). 


VI. Broad Descriptive Hypothesis

Consumption of drugs within the cultural context restricts the quantity consumed and type of drug/s taken. It provides functional reasons for use and a social construct for the drug user within the cultural context and restricts the marginalisation of drug users.


With criminalisation of drug use through the present day drug policy traditional and derivative/ synthetic drug users have to interact with criminal networks. The criminalisation of drug use increases the market for drugs and the illegal drug trade becomes a lucrative enterprise.


VII. Scheme of the Thesis

The thesis has been divided into six major chapters. The first chapter deals with the research question and theoretical framework. It provides a review of literature (Blum 1969;  Chopra et. al. 1990; Comitas 1975; Charles et. al. 1999; De Rios 1975; Fisher 1975; Garcia 1975; Herer  1991; Hasan 1975; Masihi et. al. 1994; Machado 1994; Meyerhoff 1975; Masihi et. al. 2001; Rubin (a) 1975; and Shrivastava 1989) on the use of psychoactive substances within the cultural context and provides information on the influence of  the drug setting on drug consumption, the purpose of use, forms of use the type of drugs consumed and regulation of drug consumption. The problem statement for the present research and schema for understanding drug effects is as put forward by De Rios and forms a part of the chapter.


The second chapter focuses on methodology, research sites, rapport building, techniques, tools used in the study, the process of data analysis, and the relevance and limitation of the study. Relevant background information on the sites selected for the study has been presented, and the coverage includes a larger geographical area than the locales selected.


The third chapter presents data on the religious use of psychoactive substances by the samnyasis community. It further presents information on the initiation into drug use, the graduation and gaining mastery over it. By analysing the process it presents cultural mechanisms of control that evolved with regard to drug use.


Based on the data collected, it was found that traditional drugs were consumed in a controlled manner that included the quantity of drug, type of drug, context of use, restrictions arising from expectation related to the physiological impact of drug use and the adherence to a power structure when consumed in a group setting.  As a result the social construct of drug, drug user and addiction presented here are different from present mainstream literature on drug abuse management, which considers regular use a disease/addiction.


Chapter four presents the socio-culture use of cannabis and opium in different social contexts based on data collected from Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. The data focuses on religious, social and medicinal use of cannabis and opium. The choice of location for the study was based on the presence of groups to be studied and accessibility to the groups concerned.


The use of cannabis is more extensive in Himachal Pradesh because of the superior quality of the locally produced charas and the growth of tourism in the State (Charles (b) 2001). For studying the use of traditional drugs for medicinal purposes data were collected from Tamil Nadu as use of traditional systems of medicine is extensive here and for the ease of access to practitioners of traditional systems of medicine.


Based on data collected the schema of drug effects was adapted to the Indian context and it was found that consumption of traditional drugs within the cultural context did control drug use with regard to type of drug, quantity consumed, the setting for use and profile of users. It was found that traditional drugs have been used and continue to be used in medicinal of traditional systems of medicine.


Chapter five utilises the data on non-cultural drug use and drug trade to present the impact of criminalisation on traditional drugs and hard drugs. It focuses on present day legislative measure, the NDPs Act, 1985 and it’s implication on local wisdom with regard to drug use management. Adaptation of cultural use to new formal norms, introduction of hard drugs and the strengthening of a new body of knowledge with regard to cultural use, the changes in the social context of drug use and the impact of criminalisation on drug use, these issues are considered here on the basis of data from drug users. Changes in the social context of drug trade, the emergence of new socio-economic activities, initiation into crime and entrenchment of criminal networks are focussed upon and based on data from informants in the drug trade and drug users involved in criminal activities.


Based on data collected, the chapter adapts the schema of De Rios to the Indian context whereby the changes in antecedent and consequent factors brought about through criminalisation, are integrated to understand drug effects in the changed socio-cultural context.


Utilising the data collected from various groups from different settings, the chapter addresses the issue of criminalisation of drugs and presents the impact of criminalisation process on drug use and drug trade. It presents the process through which the present day drug policy has created a situation where there is  scope for the introduction of new types of drugs without a cultural base, along with new forms of use that evolve in a sub-cultural setting which lead to marginalisation, stigmatisation and criminalisation of the user.


Chapter Six presents the conclusion of the study; the implications of criminalisation on drug use and drug trade which is presented through an adapted schema of drug effects called schema of Drug Effects within the Indian context.


VIII. Conclusion

Drug use management exists in different socio-cultural contexts across the globe it consists of regulatory mechanisms for use within the religious, social and medicinal context. A review of literature presents this reality within and outside India. With the enforcement of legislation that focussed on the criminal approach for drug control, a different social context evolved with regard to drug use and trade control, it led to the marginalisation of users and created scope for the selective implementation of justice based on class and race differences.


Against this background information based on a review of literature, the Schema of Drug Effects put forward by De Rios, 1975, is presented for analysing the data collected from within the Indian context and facilitating the process, definition of concepts used is also presented. The problem statement presents research queries on issues linked to drug use and abuse management.


The last section of this chapter focuses on the schema of the thesis and a brief description is given on the contents of various chapters in the thesis.





















The chapter presents details on the data collection process. It focuses on the method selected for the study and provides details on the research sites included for collecting data on drug use and trade. Along with an elaboration on the rapport building process, the focus here is on the methods of interviewing, the limitation and relevance of the study and the process of analysis of data collected.


I. Approach Selected

The choice of methodology appropriate to the research study depends on the target group focussed upon and also on past research and accessibility to the group. When a social issue is explored for the first time there arise circumstantial limitations that lead to an adaptation of the tools used for data collection and also determine the preference for one methodology over another.


The question of the value of qualitative and quantitative research designs and techniques has been a point of dispute among scientists. They have argued over their merits and demerits from their individual/professional perspective. The quantitative research design is highly useful when researching a known population and in dealing with phenomena on which some scientific knowledge already exists. When the area of inquiry is one on which little or no scientific knowledge exists, an exploratory study, primarily qualitative in design, might be more appropriate.


Working with a hidden population about whom little is known makes it difficult to use standard random sampling techniques. According to Wiebel (1990) the use of illicit intoxicants is largely a covert activity in our society and it is not possible to identify the number of individuals who engage in such behaviour. Representative sampling irrespective of its scientific merits is quite simply impossible to employ with the varied phenomena at hand.


The situation is further complicated when members of the group under study are involved in criminal activities and live in isolation or hide their deviation from accepted dominant norms of the society.  Drug use other than use of bhang (cannabis leaf) has been criminalized with the implementation of NDPS Act, 1985. Though the consumption of bhang is sanctioned there is no provision for licit cultivation of the cannabis plant as in case of opium, and so the only source for bhang is illicit cultivation and criminal networks. According to the existing legislation drug use and drug trade are punishable, the period of imprisonment varies with the nature of the drug and quantity seized. This makes it extremely difficult to collect data on drug and drug trade, except when data is collected from the institutional setting or through agencies involved in outreach activities.


The groups selected for the study limited the tools for data collection. Agar (1997) stated that there are two settings, from which data can be collected, one from the institutional setting, which include treatment centres and prison settings, and the other from community settings. In this study data were collected from both settings, institutional and community. For the research group of samnyasis, the akada (institutional setting) was the primary place of contact other than the community setting or their temporary residence in isolated places close to forests and other remote places. With those involved in crime it was basically the community setting and the drug peddling areas that provided a source for data collection.


Data about drug users in Himachal Pradesh and Mumbai city were collected from different settings. In the case of drug users from Himachal Pradesh, data were collected from the community setting; this included data from restaurants where cannabis is smoked in a manner similar to the cafes in Amsterdam. Data from drug users in Bombay city were collected from both the institutional (treatment centres/outreach setting) and community settings. Unlike the case of samnyasis and drug users of Himachal Pradesh, data in Mumbai City were collected only from hard drug users, especially marginalized street level drug users.


Data from drug peddlers and those involved in organised crime required contact with informants who had an excellent rapport with the study group, and an extended period of time was spent to strengthen the relationship. For confirming reliability, data were collected from different informants in the community.  Data from this group were collected both from Himachal Pradesh and Mumbai City. The role of contact persons who had close links with informants was crucial at both these research sites. This was also the case with data collected from samnyasis, as they lead an isolated life avoiding contact with worldly persons expect for brief religious ritualistic interaction.


In addition to the complications and difficulties that arose from the choice of study groups, the gender of the researcher posed another problem. A female was not expected to be involved in activities that required close interaction with males involved in criminal activities or belonging to isolated groups of samnyasis, especially since they were ones that preferred the use minimal clothing, if any. These aspects limited the researcher’s role as a participant observer.


Along with the quasi-participant observation, data were collected from informants and research groups through interview guides. Data were crosschecked through observation and group discussions for reliability.


II. Research Sites

Different sites were selected for collecting data from samnyasis, drug users and practitioners of traditional medicine in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Mumbai. The same was also the case for data collected from those involved in different activities related to drug trade in Himachal Pradesh and Mumbai.  Here research sites refer to geographical area larger than the locale of the study.


The locale selected for different groups depended on its relevance to observing the phenomenon under study and the extent to which it represented the reality of the issue focussed upon.


II.1 Junagadh – The Religious Community

In the case of religious use of psychoactive substances the samnyasi community who gathered for Mahashivaratri at the town of Junagadh in  Junagadh district of - the state Gujarat was selected for inquiry. Junagadh is an important pilgrimage site in India, where samnyasis meet every year to pay obeisance to Lord Siva. Data were collected from different sites in the district, where samnyasis had a temporary institutional base in their wandering lives or had their permanent residence.


The town of Junagadh is situated on the foothills of the sacred hill of Girnar and occupies a special place in the history of Gujarat. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Siva resides at the temple of Bhavanath and Narayana as Damodarrai near Damodar Kund (pond). Mount Girnar, to the east of Junagadh city, is an important pilgrim centre for Hindus. It has five peaks, the first being Ambamata (or the Girnar Goddess) which is visited by married couples to ensure wedded bliss, the second is Gorakhnath the highest peak, the third is Oghad Shikhar, the fourth Guru Dattatraya peak has a shrine dedicated to Goraknath, and the fifth peak, Kalika peak which is a resort to Aghoris[7] (Rajyagor 1975)



Map No 1

Location of Gujarat in India


Text Box:  Map of Junagadh in Gujarat











II.2. Cannabis Users in Himachal Pradesh


Himachal Pradesh situated in the western Himalayas is dominated by mountains and associated rivers. It has a total population of 5.6 million within its 55,673 of area.  Its capital is Shimla, and the main languages are Hindi and Pahari or language of the hills.


Agriculture is the main source of income for the people of the state. As traditional crops have limited growth potential, the emphasis has been on high value cash crops, mainly fruits and off-season vegetables. These efforts have had a limited outcome as deforestation and quarrying for slate have caused ecological damage and resulted in harsh climatic conditions unfit for crops.


The tourism industry has become an important source of income for the local people, especially given the limited impact of development programmes in the State. The local people lease out their land to others from nearby States to build hotels and cater to the tourists. Another easy way of making money identified by the youth is to provide drugs of choice to the tourists (Charles (a) 2001; Charles (b) 2001).










Map No: 2

Map of Kullu District in Himachal Pradesh


Location of Himachal Pradesh in India










II.3. Hard Drug users and Drug trade in Mumbai

An important metropolitan city on the mid-western coast of India, it is the capital of the state of Maharashtra. It is densely populated with a population of 9,908,547. It is an important centre for drug trade and also has users of different types of drugs. The drug is sold in different localities across the city and its suburbs. These outlets are near railway stations or bus stations and at times near the highways, main roads or in specified localities. The research sites were selected based on existing data collected from outreach work undertaken by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO). For further inquiry in these sites, specific addas (locations in the city where the drug is sold and users sit and consume drugs) were selected for observation and to conduct in-depth interviews of users when possible.










Text Box:  Map No: 3

Location of Maharashtra in  India

Map of Mumbai City in Maharashtra State


III. Rapport Building

Whatever the methodology adopted the crucial issue in this study is rapport building, to obtain relevant sensitive information especially from a hidden population and isolated groups. It is a long term interaction that began even prior to undertaking the present research study that facilitated rapport building.


It was extremely difficult to establish contact and collect information on samnyasis, especially Naga[8] and Aghori samnyasis, for whom cannabis use is an integral part of their meditation and quest for spiritual insight.  In spite of working in the field of drug abuse management for over a decade, the researcher found minimal information on the use of mind-altering substances by the samnyasis. This availability of limited information was also reflected in the viewpoints of professionals on the use of cannabis by samnyasis sometimes this pattern of use was mentioned in passing while addressing the issue of cannabis use within the socio-cultural context of India or Nepal. It is this absence of information that motivated the researcher to study drug use by the samnyasis community.


There was a religious meet of samnyasis for Shivaratri in Junagadh, which the researcher decided to attend as the starting point to the investigation. There were few who could help in the inquiry, as they or their families did not welcome the idea of close interaction with the samnyasis from the Naga and Aghori sects.


At the hotel, the researcher met an ex-member of naga samnyasi who had married, as custom required that the only son get married to carry on the family lineage. It is with the help of this person that she managed to interact with Naga and Aghori samnyasis. Quite unlike the perception of laypersons, these religious personalities were extremely kind and forthcoming. They stated that they were happy to meet an Indian interested in understanding their way of life, though they were surprised it was a woman.


During her interaction with these samnyasis she noticed that there was only one widowed older woman, who came anywhere near them to take their blessing. The male members of the area who came to take the blessings of the samnyasis, at times for their small children, were surprised or rather shocked to find the researcher sitting next to the Naga samnyasis, and so insisted that she must be a hippie, otherwise she would not be interacting with them in this manner.


Rapport building for data collection from individuals involved in the drug trade and criminal activities was possible because of contact persons who acted as facilitators. It is the trust of this group on these individuals that facilitated the researcher collect information on this sensitive issue.  These contact persons vouched for her credibility and also stated that she would not act as informer to the police. In spite of their involvement in illegal activities, it was far easier to collect data from this group than establish contact and collect information from the samnyasis.


 As the subject of inquiry was sensitive, access to primary data was time consuming. The detailed case histories undertaken depended on the contact person’s relationship with the interviewee, especially the extent of trust and the process of establishing a rapport.  The study on the growth of organised crime undertaken in Mumbai (Charles et. al. 2002) by the researcher gave scope for strengthening links with individuals involved in criminal activities and collecting data for the present research.


Rapport building with drug users was made easy by the close interaction with the drug using population, especially in Mumbai as the researcher had worked in the area with street level drug users. In the case of drug users from Himachal Pradesh, it was the presence of contact persons that facilitated the process.


Interacting with these groups who in many ways live away from the set path of society left the researcher with a richer understanding of the varying shades of human life. It also highlighted the process through which individuals get moulded into different careers. In the case of samnyasis, however it was an individual choice made at a very young age and the secluded lifestyle that led them to live life on a plane totally different from that of their worldly brethren.


IV. Methods of Interviewing 

Interview guides were developed for collecting information from different categories of individuals by first selecting a few individuals from the group to be studied who were then interviewed in depth, and in a free floating manner. Through the process the broad issues to be focussed upon by the interview guide were evolved.  The interview guide was used to collect information on samnyasis, drug users in Himachal Pradesh and Mumbai, and those involved in the drug trade in Mumbai and Himachal Pradesh.


The data were crosschecked through interaction with different informants and observation. During informal discussions with samnyasis in a group, some of the information collected was rechecked. This approach was also used in case of data collected from drug users, but never used for the group involved in drug dealing, as interviews were conducted in isolation.


The detailed indepth interviews focussed on the following issues:


IV.1. Observation

Quasi- participant observation was used to collect data on samnyasis, drug use and drug dealers.


Besides this additional data were collected from leaflets, newspaper articles and documentaries. Photographs were also used to document the activities of the samnyasis. 


V. Limitation

The choice of the groups restricted the data collection process, in the case of religious community limited to samnyasis from certain sects. The present data is still relevant as there is at present limited information on drug use by samnyasis in the Indian context, though there are many studies that focus on samnyasis, their way of life, their perception, their understanding and use of psychic powers. These studies focus on drug use in passing. This absence of adequate information is also seen in the case of drug trade.


The study is limited by the restriction of the data collection to drug use and drug trade in Mumbai city and some parts of Himachal Pradesh.


VI. Relevance

The relevance of this study is that it highlights important issues to be considered in the national drug policy and it identifies issues for further research. It brings forth a need to evaluate the existing drug abuse management programmes and the need to consider the role of culture in drug use/abuse management as part of the harm minimisation programme.




VII. Selection of Informants

To study the religious use of psychoactive substances 19 samnyasis were interviewed and photographs taken. For understanding drug use outside the religious group data was collected from 10 traditional drug users and to present the impact of criminalisation on hard drug users 22 users were interviewed. In addition to this data was collected from 27 traditional practitioners of medicine. For presenting various aspects of drug trade 15 informants were interviewed.


VIII. Data Analysis and Presentation

The data were analysed based on topics such as initiation into drug use, graduation, mastery and the impact of criminalisation of drug use. Data of drug users were also categorised into sections such as the process of marginalisation, the impact of criminalisation and involvement in criminal activities. The role of ritualisation as a means of controlling drug use in different settings was also focused upon.


In the case of data on medicinal use the focus was to present the use of psychoactive plant products in medicinal preparations and to see whether medicinal properties of psychoactive plants is utilised to deal with common ailments.


Data from hard drug users and those involved in criminal activities were used to present the impact of criminalisation on the social context of drug use, and on indulgence in criminal activities among drug users. In addition, data were used to understand the street level drug peddlers and their related activities.  It involved collation of data in terms of changes in social constructs such as drug, drug use, drug user, drug dealer and drug addiction.


IX. Conclusion

Given the hidden nature of the issue under study elaboration is made on the preference for qualitative research inquiry especially when the behaviour under investigation is criminal. Against the details on approach selected the process of rapport building with isolated group of samnyasis, drug user and traders is presented. Details of the research sites selected for the groups investigated are presented along with methods of interviewing. The section further presents the limitation and relevance of the study along with the analysis of the data collected

















Chapter – 3

Role of Psychoactive Substances in Religion and Asceticism



To present the religious aspect in culturally embedded drug use patterns this chapter focuses on the use of psychoactive substances among saivite samnyasis along with transference of their knowledge on use management to the general public. The elaboration here on the religious form of drug consumption and the related social constructs is based on data collected through observation and informant interviews conducted in Junaghad   district of Gujarat and Kullu and Kangra districts of Himachal Pradesh. For providing a background to religious use of psychoactive substances and on the life of saivite samnyasis data from the scriptures are used along with other studies. The aspects covered under these sections include norms adhered to during preparation of the drug, at the time of consumption and on the pattern of use.  To present the link between religious use within saivite samnyasi community and outside the religious group, data on social interaction between the saivite samnyasis and general public is provided. All these aspects of drug consumption contribute towards creating a normative pattern of use, which forms a base for use management within the religious community.


I. Saivite Samnyasis and Asceticism

Mount Girnar is an important pilgrimage place for Saivite Samnyasis and devotees for celebrating Mahashivaratri. The area considered to be sacred begins at the Girnar gate, lying at the base of Mount Girnar. The importance of Mount Girnar is brought forth in hymns that praise its relevance.


Girnar is in Kathiawar.
On the summit of Girnar Hills
Are the footprints of Lord Dattatreya.
Nearby stands the temple of Ambaji.
Ambaji is Mother of Anusuya.
A sincere devotee
Can meet Him here even now.
The Sound of His sandals is heard.
He gives Darshan
To the faithful and the devoted.

O Lord Dattatreya,
Trimurti Avatara,
Child of Anusuya and Atri.
Prostrations unto Thee.
Thou art the Adi Guru
Of Sannyasins.

( Sivananda 1957)


At the foot of Mount Girnar is the famous Bhavanath Mandir[9], an important religious site, there are numerous saivite samnyasis from varied sects who come to pay homage to Lord Siva. This place is also significant because it is where the foot print of Dattatreya (an ascetic) is considered embedded in the rock.  Dattatreya is the tutelary deity of Naga samnyasis along with Bhairava.[10]


Saivite Samnyasis are distinguished by their ochre coloured robes, the place is filled with various shades of this attire, the uniformity broken by some samnyasis wearing black or white attire. Though after the festival the number of samnyasis reduces drastically, there are to be found samnyasis with black attire, who look different in their appearance especially as they carry a human skull along with them. Besides the attire of the samnyasis, it is the ornaments that adorn their neck, ears, hands and waist that indicate their sectarian affiliation, as does the specific sect name suffixed to their samnyasi name. In the case of those who have gone beyond these differences and become a Paramahamsa[11] it is difficult to place their sectarian membership.


The temporary sheds found on the lanes of Mount Girnar have pictures of Lord Siva and Datttatreya kept in great reverence. The homage paid to them by the Saivite Samnyasis and devotees is an indication of respect given to ascetic life in Hindu tradition. The form of the Lord Siva worshipped here is that of an ascetic, though he is generally worshipped in the form of Linga[12]. 


Lord Siva has been represented in many forms. In one he is represented as living in the human form in the Himalayas with Parvati, at times in the act of destroying demons, with a serpent around his neck and a necklace made of skulls.  He is also shown as riding a white bull, with a trident in his hands, wearing a tiger’s skin or elephants’ skin. He has three eyes the significant third eye is in the middle on his forehead. The third eye is used to distinguish truth from illusion and to destroy lust that reduced man into samsara (worldly person) (Wilklins 2000; Ghurye 1953)


He is also known as Mahadev, in the form of an austere ascetic, living in the forest with matted hair and teaching his disciples the virtues of penance (tapas), mortification of body, suppression of human passions and abstract meditation. Lord Siva covers himself with ash, thus rejecting symbolically the material world, he also carries Kamandalu (water pot), a bowl made of human skull to drink and a chillum[13] (pipe). It is believed that such living leads to the loftiest spiritual knowledge and ultimately union with the Great Spirit of the Universe. Some of the other names for Lord Siva are Digambara (‘He who is clothed with space or is naked), Bhuteswara [Lord of Bhuts (ghosts or golbins)]  (Wilklins 2000; Ghurye 1953).


The behaviour patterns of ascetics are associated more with certain specific incarnations of Lord Siva, the tutelary deity of the Pasupat sect. The Indus valley civilisation cultivated yoga[14] and meditative techniques along with its cult of Lord Siva as Pasupati (divine herdsman) and Yogi. There is the representation of the Udhra-medhara[15] god on one of the seal-amulets discovered at Mohen-jo-daro, a centre of the Indus Valley civilisation. On a seal is seen a prototype Siva, as a three-faced person seated in an attitude of Yoga, and with urdha-medhra clearly exhibited (Ghurye 1953; Pandey 1987).


It is to follow the footsteps of Lord Siva, that Saivite Samnyasis who come to mount Girnar wear only a stitched or unstitched piece of ochre coloured garment. They also wear horizontal tilak (marks) on their forehead to show their sectarian affiliation. These tilaks of with ash are also known as vibuthi power. Some of them wear a spot on the centre to represent the third eye of Lord Siva. These specifications have been also mentioned by Ghurye (1953), who noted the use of necklaces made by Rudraksha[16], tulsi[17] beads or crystals and the pattern of carrying Kamandellu by some sect.


Images of saivite samnyasis enjoying the chillum while interacting with other samnyasis or bhagats (devotees) in their sheds, and when alone, fill the lanes and corners of Mount Girnar. This is a far cry from the criminalisation perspective that considers drug use to be a criminal act capable of evoking a punishment of six months behind bars.


Confronted by this contrast it is difficult not to recollect the passages from scriptures that dwell on the pleasures of Soma[18].

“This Soma is a god; he cures

The sharpest ills that man endures

He heals the sick, the sad he cheers,

He nerves the weak dispels the fears; 

We’ve quaffed the Soma bright

And are immortal grown

We’ve entered into light,

And all the gods have known.

( From The Rig Veda as cited in Wilkins, 2000, pg 70-71)



The description of soma as recorded in the Vedas[19], the Rigveda[20], the Samaveda[21] and the Yajuraveda[22]  show the position given to it within the religion. Soma, according to the Vedic hymns, is the God who ‘represents and animates the juice of the soma plant. In some of the hymns, he is exalted as the Creator, the Father of Gods. In the verses and songs in praise of soma, there is no distinction made between the actual juice and the God who is supposed to dwell in it. All the Gods drink it; and soma, the God in the juice, is said to clothe the naked and heal the sick[23] (Wilkins 2000; Kishore (a) 1998 and Kishore (b) 1998). The Vedas described soma as the drink of the Gods, and there has been frequent reference to Lord Indira’s fondness for it[24]. One such instance from the Samaveda is given below:


Indira, O mighty Lord, may we continue praising, Thy fame, fame of one like Thee. O Hero, may we realise Thee in our meditation. O  Indira, at daybreak accept our oblation of Soma mixed with roasted corn-flour, with cake, curds, and eulogies. Indira, Thou overcomest all the demons and evil forces, with Thy all conquering might. Thine are all these pleasures of the Soma juice, Lord Indira. Enjoy them and be pleased, Lord of royal wealth. For Thee, Lord of Light, Soma Juice is pressed, and sacred grass-seat is spread. Indira be gracious to Thy worshippers (Kishore (b) 1998:35).


Another Lord known for his fondness for Soma is Lord Siva, and he is also known as Somnath or the guardian of the sacred herb, soma. In the Hindu Epics and Puranas’, Lord Siva plays an important part, and several books have been written in his praise. Lord Siva is not mentioned as a God in the Vedas, he is declared to be Rudra[25] of the Vedas (Singh, 1990). In Yajuraveda, Rudra is addressed, Salutation be to him, the blue throated[26] the thousand eyed, the beautiful to look on, and also to his ministers, to them be our homage (Kishore (c) 1998: 83).


II. Locale

The area covering the base of Mount Girnar has many religious sites, and one of them is Damodhar Kund.  It is situated beyond the Girnar Gate, it is here that the cremated remains of the deceased are immersed by relatives and a puja is performed. Ahead of Damodar Kund is the Bhavanath mandir, which holds a significant place in the religious rites on Mahashivratri especially for the samnyasis and their devotees. Near to Bhavanath mandir, is the Murgi Kund, where samnyasis take a dip at midnight on Mahashivratri. The next day, devotees drench themselves in the water that is flushed out of the kund, which they consider to be blessed.


Ahead of the Bhavanth Mandir is a cross road, marked by a huge tree at the junction of the diversion. Samnyasis of different sects sit on either side of the lane under temporary sheds or below trees. These rectangular temporary structures are made of bamboo and cloth covering an area of around 10ft by 7ft. The structures utilise the walls on either side of the lanes to support their roof. The walls, a part of the akhadas or monastic centres on the side of these lanes.


The area within the temporary shed is kept clean and neat, the flooring is plastered with a mixture of mud and water. The portion outside the shed is kept clean by sprinkling water to settle the dust. Inside the shed, close to the wall, the flooring is raised to make a small platform, which forms the seat for the samnyasis and his favourite chelas (disciples). The devotees and other visitors sit at a lower level. Even when they sit in a circle to smoke chillum, the power structure between samnyasis, disciples and devotees is maintained.


The visible symbol in these temporary sheds is the dhunni [27] or fireplace. There is no fixed size for the dhunni, which is a circular heap with a hollow portion in the middle. This heap is called Brahma Kunda, and the entire dhunni is made of mud. Mud from burrows inhabited by snakes is used to make the dhunni, and among certain sects, such as aghoris, the ash from the cremation ground is also used and such dhunni is considered siddh. The other items used in the preparation of the dhunni are cow dung, cow’s urine and water.


Dhunni is considered sacred and worshipped daily, and flowers are placed outside the Brahma Kund and prayers are said after water is sprinkled on the flowers. A person can touch the dhunni only after having a bath. Waste materials such as matchsticks cannot be thrown inside the dhunni. Some of the samnyasis picked the money given by people with pincers and at times threw it inside the dhunni. Depending on the type of dhunni, it is either kept lit throughout the year in the same place or a part of the dhunni is carried by the samnyasis from one place to another.


At the Akhada when everyone leaves one person stays behind to ensure that it is kept lit. When the dhunni, is maintained in this manner for years (over 12 years) the dhunni itself is considered to be siddh (enlightened) and have miraculous powers, it is used for medicinal purposes.


At the Juna or Purana Akhada samnyasis from different sects come together during Mahashivratri. The power structures between samnyasis are maintained. One can glean this from the sitting arrangement; some of them sit on raised platforms and others on lower levels. From the gate of the Akhada the lane leads to a big structure where a picture of Lord Shankar is placed in a prominent position. On one side of the Akhada is the dhunni. It is considered to be very old and it is enclosed by walls on all three sides. After the dhunni on one side is a small mandir for Guru Dattatreya Bhagwan.


Next to it is a raised platform, which is a gurugadi[28] and behind it on one side is the bathroom, which has a piece of cloth that acts as a door. The top of the gurugadi has a roof, which is supported on a beam. On the lower portion there are different seating places for the samnyasis and there are different dhunnis around which they sit. When samnyasis are there they light the dhunni. On one part of this area, the aghoris sit together. The samnyasis who come to the Akhada leave some gifts at the feet of the Guru and pay homage to him. From this collection, money is also provided to samnyasis who come from distant places, to facilitate their travel.


III. Use of psychoactive substances in religious context.

Psychoactive substances have been used for religious and magico-religious rites by different communities across the globe (Guiley 1993). The changes that occurred in our association with mind altering substances for religious purposes can be far more related to the difficulty of this realm being understood in a scientific manner (Charles et. al. 1999). Cannabis was used among Scythian in Atian in mid-Asia, during funeral rites (Emoden 1972) and in another culture it was used to experience ‘great vision’ and thereby ascertain the smoker’s role in ganja subculture (Rubin (b) 1975). Cannabis occupied a pride of position in the religious ceremony of tribals near Gulf of Mexico (Garcia, 1975). In a similar manner other substances to be used in the religious context included hallucinogens (Blum 1969; De Rios 1975), Datura fatuosa[29] (De Rios 1975) and Nicotine (Wilbert 1975).


Studies have shown that cannabis use is common across various sects and that it is linked to Lord Siva for Soma is considered to be a gift from Lord Siva (Hasan 1975, Chopra et. al. 1990). At the same time there is lack of clarity as to the botanical nomenclature of the soma mentioned in the Vedas.


It has been considered to be Asclepias acide, which is a creeper plant almost destitute of leaves. It yields a milky juice which is mild and acidic in nature (Wilkins 2000; Wasson 1971). According to Mckeena (1993) soma is Strophoria cubensis. He based his conclusion on the climatic requirement for the plant and its psychotropic properties. Whatever may be the botanical nomenclature of soma, early documentation cites Rishis as being permitted to perform sacrifice involving the use of soma, and in the case of scarcity, using another plant as substitute (Pandey 1987). Since the soma plant is rare, the abundantly available cannabis must have been associated with it.


IV. The group under study – Saivite Samnyasis

The decision to focus on use of psychoactive plant products among saivite samnyasis emerged from a limited availability of literature on their pattern of drug use; at the same time there are a number of publications on their life style, religious beliefs and their remarkable achievement on physical abilities and understanding and information on developing mental skills that focus on psychic energy.  Hence the focus of this study is on their role of psychoactive substances in their lives as perceived by them and mechanisms that have evolved in order to sustain the functions of these substances.


Data presented here is based on in depth interaction and observation of saivite samnyasis in both Junaghad and Himachal Pradesh, with a majority of the cases being from the former site. In the context of samnyasi community, based on the data collected it the place of stay or study does not seem to hold any relevance. For, from the time of their initiation, which occurs during early adolescent years the recruit has to travel with his/her guru or alone to different pilgrimage sites in India, as the focus is to keep moving so that the possibility of developing attachment to place or people is restricted. The focus is also to visit all the important pilgrimage sites of Lord Siva in different corners of the country.


The researcher’s interaction with them took place within their akhada in Junagahad town area and in matts. These are structures set up by samnyasis who after years of wandering set up rough structures in a spot where they feel they can pursue their spiritual goals. Often the selected locations are isolated areas near rivers, forests or hills.  Among the 19 samnyasis interviewed, many of them were temporarily staying in the akhada and others had their own matts. One Udasin samnyasi  with a small ashram close to the Gir forest area, near a small village had the villagers visit him for his services.


Akhada are institutional structures, found in different parts of the country, unlike monastic centres the membership of akhada is dependent on the mantra that the guru has whispered into his/her ears when the samnyasin was initiated into the sect. In this study the data were collected from Juna Akhada. It has a huge open ground, the area on the left was cemented and a structure raised with four pillars and roof. On the side there are a few trees. On entry to the akhada, to the right is the enclosed dhunni of the akahada in front of which there is always a samnyasi attending to the dhunni. People come here to pay obeisance to the dhunni, for it is considered to become siddh or (to be endowed with miraculous powers) after it has been maintained for many years.


All saivite samnyaisis use cannabis. However, it is not restricted only to  saivite samnyais. Consumption is far more among the Naga and Nathpanthi samanyasis and this is the reason why more respondents were selected from these sects. Members of the Udasin sect have also been included in this study as they are reformist groups and their membership is open to women as well. In addition to their use of psychoactive substances, both Naga and Nathpanthis are known for their skill in using weapons and staff and also for their psychic abilities. This is a clear indication that the continuous use of cannabis products does not automatically lead to addiction or is associated with a dysfunctional life style as portrayed by the drug abuse management approach.


One of the Naga samnyasi who displayed his skills that was photographed by the researcher said it is a means to show the world that the mind is more powerful than what is understood by people. He then used the staff around which his penis was wrapped in such a relaxed manner that it was difficult for anyone to conceive that a sensitive organ can be so desensitised. His penis also hung low to the ground, when he sat in a squatting position and according to the informant this is known as Sama-nicamedhra. This has been also indicated by Ghurye (1953).


Another characteristic of both Naga’s and Nathpanthis has been their skill with weapons, this was displayed by the Nagas and Nathpanthis as they walked towards the murgi kund where they take their annual bath. The entire process was visually documented by a videographer a copy of which, was given by one of the samnyasis to the researcher. Their display of skills included samnyasis pulling a vehicle tied to their penis and also having their penis wrapped around a sword. All the while all of them were walking towards the murgi kund[30].


Unlike the Naga’s who received their name based on their chief characteristic; nakedness, the Nathpanthis use an ochre coloured single stitched robe. They receive their name because they worship Gorakhnatha, they also call themselves Gorakhapanthis.  There are two divisions among them the Augharas (Aghoripanthis) and Nathpanthis. The difference between them being the latter has their ears pierced and wear huge earrings while the former wear no earrings.  Augharas do not have this difference and they wear black attire instead of ochre coloured robes. A Nathpanthi samnyasi from Kanpata[31] sect showed his round earrings called Kundala, as he explained his sectarian affiliation. Among the members of this sect there are others with flat earrings which are known as Darsana.  According to Ghurye (1953), the importance of the ring in the perforated ear is so great that if by chance the ear is torn the ascetic is excommunicated. The other ornaments worn by Nathpanthi include the sacred thread around the neck, called saili. It consists of a Rudraksha bead and whistle made of horn either of a buck or a rhinoceros, called singanada.                                      


The samnyasis who were part of the study, were totally   enculturated into the group ideology. All of them, except for two, entered the group in a very early age leaving their families behind and following the guru wherever he went. Such a practice creates a sense of total submission to the ways of the guru and acceptance of the group identity.


This study focused basically on the use of psychoactive substances. In order to identify the specific issues to be focused on, three case histories were initially taken. Additional cases were purposive efforts at collection of information on consuming different types of drugs in larger quantities.  Among the samnyasis who were informants to the study, an Aughara,  who later became a paramahamsa, wore a white attire said once a person becomes a paramahamsa he goes beyond sectarian differences. He further said ...though I have taken all forms of drugs, now I have gone even beyond the need for drugs, as my body produces what it needs by itself to facilitate my spiritual journey. Only occasionally in a group setting do I take puffs of ganja chillum, as that is a gift from our Lord.


V. Role of Psychoactive Substances In Asceticism

A review of literature on Hinduism shows the important traits of asceticism as celibacy, austerity, concentration and ecstasy. Asceticism, in general insists on aspirants being Naisthika Brahmacari.  In an ascetic’s life austerity or tapas come in different forms such as sacrifice, being silent and fasting. Concentration refers to a last stage in yoga system, it is also referred to as dharana or continued concentration. The other stages in yoga are dhyana (meditation) and citta (control of mind, or consciousness). The focus of this process is the control of senses, mind and intellect and it is known as Indriyadharana. Ecstasy refers to the feeling on consumption of soma, and it facilitates the realisation of the supreme soul and union with Brahma.


Within this context the use of cannabis and other substances by samnyasis is an interesting inquiry that brings forth a different perspective to drug use management. Literature shows that Nathpanthis have been known to consume cannabis in large quantities as their tutelary deity Bhairava is fond of the same. The mastery of yoga and the consumption of psychoactive substances are part of their ascetic life. It is against this background the present research will focus on the role of psychoactive substance among the religious community and resultant use management.  Towards this end data is presented on the use of bhang and cannabis by the community and the manner of its preparation. The latter is significant as the setting for preparation is often a religious place and it is done in an open manner, this is different from the use and preparation of substances  that occurs in a criminal setting, where the emphasis is to hide the habit and restrict the number of people who have access to such information.                                


V. 1. Consumption of psychoactive substances

V.1.1. Bhang Drinking

The small group of three Aghoripanths whom the researcher met, wore black robes and had a large vessel of bhang on their side. They offered the drink to all the people who came to meet them; it was done in a casual manner as if offering a cup of tea. Aghoripanths strive to attain mystical powers and show their utter distain for mundane conventions and feelings this is expressed by eating anything without any demur. They believe anything created by their Lord cannot be dirty. Unlike other saivite sects who abhor drinking alcohol, Aghoripanths take pleasure in doing so and consider it an important part of their religious rites. They don’t live a life of celibacy and have a female partner; one of the members in the group is a sadhvik, who joined the sect ten years ago.                                                   


Speaking of bhang, the informant from the saivite samnyasi sect said: `It is a lengthy process and it is prepared from the tender leaves of ganja, datura seeds, black pepper, tulsi [32] leaves and water. This mixture is ground with a stone and a little water is added to it. Then it is placed in a thamba (bronze) vessel, the mixture is again stirred to make it thick and it is kept in the vessel overnight, after which other ingredients, such as powdered cashew, kismis[33], pista, aniseed, ajowan, cloves, saffron, cardamom and musk are added to the mixture. Milk is also added to the mixture and it is boiled. The liquid is then cooled before consumption, for it is supposed to increase its potency. When a noviciate enters the samnyasi community s/he may be given at first bhang in small quantities, before s/he is introduced to chillium smoking’. Study done by (Chopra et. al. 1990) have mentioned a similar process of preparation of bhang


V.1.2. Chillum Smoking

On a visit to the akhada for discussion with samnyasis, the samnyasis, sat on a raised platform forming a circle and the researcher was asked to join them.  It is considered to be a privilege to be asked to do so, especially for a woman. The informant had earlier instructed the researcher to either sit cross legged or with feet tucked under, for sitting with feet outstretched is considered disrespectful.  The samnyasis sat either on their haunches or cross-legged. Afterwards the Guru offered tea in small glasses. During the discussions, they decided to have a chillum and the samnyasi sitting next to the Guru prepared the chillum.  At first the chillum, kakri[34] and safi[35] were washed and kept for drying. Then the samnyasi took a piece of charas, which was handed over to him by another samnyasi from the group. As he proceeded to heat the charas with a match stick, he remarked that   ‘It is good quality charas’.  He crushed the warm charas with his thumb and forefinger and made it a fine powder by kneading it against his palm.  The powder was mixed with tobacco before filling the chillum. The filled pipe was wrapped with safi, and held for the Guru to light.  Each samnyasi before taking a puff praised Lord Siva and passed on the chillum to the person sitting on his right; this order was not broken.


Before ganja is smoked it is cleaned by removing the seeds/stems. It is then soaked in a few drops of water and crushed between two palms to drain off the excess water. Some samnyasis wash ganja twice or more, for it is believed that the process increases its potency. Sometimes, a lit matchstick is used to warm the wet mixture slightly.  The ganja mixture is then added to tobacco prior to filling up the chillum, which already has the kakri fixed on one end of the pipe of the chillum. When smoking, a safi acts as a filter and stains collect on it. Each samnyasi keeps his own cloth. After smoking the chillum, the ash that remains is applied on as tilak on the forehead, thereby expressing respect to the chillum. Both, the psychoactive substance and chillum are considered gifts of Lord Siva. Unlike ganja that is washed, charas is heated by attaching a small ball of charas to one end of a matchstick and heating it with another lit matchstick. To preserve its psychoactive properties care is taken not to burn the charas.


An informant from Dasnami Naga sect, who has been an ascetic for fifty years, spoke about chillum smoking. He left worldly life at a very early age for he enjoyed the company of samnyasis and sants, as he spent a lot of time with them especially singing bhajans. Later, in his adolescent years he met his Guru and became a part of the samnyasi community and left worldly life.


`Every fresh chillum is lit by an experienced samnyasi, his chela (disciple) prepares the chillum and gives it to the senior samnyasi sitting next to him, who then lights it. At that time any Guru-mantra (mantra given by the guru) is recited and after which the chillum is smoked. Words like 'Jai Girnari (Victory of Girnari) or Alakh Niranjan (fearless God), Jai ho Datttatreya (Victory to the sovereign King of Girnar) are uttered first. Only after such an utterance does one start inhaling the drugs filled in the chillum.


`Whenever a member of the samnyasi community visits us, we smoke a chillum together. This is a way in which we show respect and courtesy’.


`When smoking we sit in a circle, samnyasis mostly sit on their haunches. The chillum is passed on from one member to the other in a clockwise direction and it is passed only after it has been smoked.  The samnyasis are not allowed to cough or clear the throat when smoking, as it is considered a sign of disrespect to the Lord. After smoking chillum only religious topics are discussed, mainly mantras, the life of sadhana or what one has achieved spiritually. Discussions also focused on the opinions of different gurus’.


He further elaborated Now at my ashram[36], I have chelas whom I teach how to take drugs, I focus on the process of taking drugs gradually and its purpose’.


To present the difference in the preparation and consumption of psychoactive substances; the information provided by an Agoripanthi informant is given.  He is in his early fifties and believes that he is an Aghori from birth. He was trained by his father for many years and after this father’s death, he inherited his father’s position.


`There are no time restrictions for Aghori, we take drugs twenty hours a day.  We collect drugs and liquor in Bhaira Khapur (skull), some of that is offered to the God and the remaining is drunk as prasadi. Ganja is smoked with tobacco in chillum; it is neither washed nor cleaned’.


 `We sit together to smoke with other members of our community. The Aghori does not give his chillum to others because it is believed that if he does so his achievements become null and void. Among us the only exception for sharing the drug is when Guru and disciple smoke together’.


`When we go to the cemetery, we first offer drugs to Bhairava and only then do we take them as prasad. We bow down to the God and then take the drugs very respectfully and in a disciplined way. This is our custom’.



Observation data and informant interviews show that based on the norms of sectarian regulation psychoactive substances are consumed by saivite samnyasis. Adherence to a power structure is seen from the position of privilege - for it is the guru who lights the chillum. While smoking care is taken to show respect to the Lord who gifted cannabis by not clearing the throat or coughing, it is also seen in that the left over ash in the chillum is not discarded as waste. These acts, the manner of sitting or uttering the Lords name all in all creates a setting where cannabis is seen as a link with the Lord. As the conversation revolves around religious matters the entire process makes cannabis another means for the samnyasis to relate to their Lord within a religious setting where beliefs govern the process, from preparation to the use of psychoactive substance.


VI. Role of Drugs in Spiritual Search

Among Samnyasis the use of mind altering substances for continuous concentration is linked to gaining control over their sense organs, the mind, for the practice of yoga and also to deal with adverse climatic conditions. This was observed in the Himalayan region in winter, where some of the data collection was done. The researcher came across samnyasi with minimal clothing sitting comfortably outside in the cold winter. On one occasion, a samnyasi who came to the shop of the devotee to collect prasad was scantily dressed and barefoot, with only one significant possession, a samnyasi bag on his shoulder. After having tea with his devotees and smoking chillum, he went out in the open walking through the snow. He showed no discomfort, though his attire was more appropriate for the summer heat.


According to samnyasis, the consumption of drugs is believed to affect other functions of the body in a positive manner. With increased drug consumption, food intake reduces and it no longer hinders the search for spiritual achievement that includes long hours of meditation and yoga, especially in adverse conditions. In addition it helps them control sensual desires which may come in the way of meditation[37]. According to samnyasis from Junna Akhada, it is this experience after consumption of cannabis that facilitates their undertaking of sadhana[38] for long periods without taking a break.  As one of them said; `At times the sadhan goes on for weeks, without food or drink.  The skills for sadhana are enhanced through consumption of drugs and thereby the ability to concentrate and meditate even in adverse conditions’.


A Nanthpanthi samnyasi, who joined ascetic life from the age of fifteen elaborated on the purpose of drug consumption:


`After consuming psychoactive substances mind and body remain calm and the mind gets extremely focussed on jap. The mind becomes blissful and no bad thoughts occur’.


`There is a link between drug use and sex, for through drug use one can fully control ones sense organs so that a person can focus his mind on jap[39], whereby one gets the highest knowledge. That is drugs + yoga + jap = moksha[40].


`The mind becomes absolutely peaceful, disturbing thoughts are removed from the mind. The user is filled with joy and gets absorbed in jap and forgets all troubles and difficulties. Everything becomes calm and we experience a rare type of joy. This can be considered the reason for taking drugs’.


Another informant form Udasin[41] Sect, who became a part of samnyasi community in his adolescent years after spending time with other samnyasis and being influenced by them; spoke of the role of psychoactive substance in a samnyasi life.


`With the use of psychoactive substances mind became peaceful, the process of jap became extremely enjoyable and the mind became absolutely calm. All sense organs remain under one’s control after taking drugs. Spiritual processes and drugs combine and the sense organs are controlled. They can be trained in any direction that one wants and such a man alone (man with such control) can be called a samnyasi or samnyasi’



The analysis of informant information showed that, from their perspective, the use of psychoactive substances facilitated their meditation and continued concentration, the latter is considered  the last stage in the yoga system and crucial to attaining unity with the Lord. This conception of the psychoactive substance is far different from the negative perception of substance use that exists within the criminal or punitive approach to drug abuse management. Here the capacity to use drugs in a constructive manner during sadhana is valued by the samnyasi community. There is no variation seen in this aspect across the sects of saivite samnyasis among the informants interviewed.


VII. Pattern of drug use among Samnyasis community

Among the saivite samnyasis the use of psychoactive substances plays a part in their ascetic life, especially in attaining a state of continued concentration, where there is control over senses, mind and intellect. To elaborate further on the process through which saivite samnyasis are introduced to psychoactive substances as part of their ascetic life in order to attain spiritual enlightenment; data are presented on their introduction to psychoactive substances, the daily life of samnyasis, the use of psychoactive substances, types of drugs consumed and graduation in the process of taking drugs.


VII.1. Introduction to Drug Use

Study on the use of hard drugs in the urban context has shown that it occurred either as an accidental event or as a conscious choice for an altered state of consciousness or high (Charles et. al. 1999). On the contrary among samnyasis community, the saivite ascetic is introduced to psychoactive substance by his/her Guru and it occurs after s/he has been initiated to the specific saivite sect.


A Naga samnyasi aged 65 who resides in Mount Girnar described his initiation to the saivite sect and introduction to drug use.  According to him a religious ascetic who visited his village cured him of a blindness, which he suffered from for five years, after an accident while working in the farm. This changed his life and he decided to become a chela to the ascetic and that’s how he became a samnyasi.


`Prior to being a samnyasi, I had never taken any drug including cannabis. After giving me diksha, my Guru gave me a little ganja, at that time other members of samnyasi community were also present. After taking cannabis, I felt happy and light. My Guru gave me ganja daily in the same manner. He also gradually increased the quantity of ganja and so did my capacity to take the substance. Since, my first introduction to ganja I have continued to take it and never stopped’.


All in all nineteen informants spoke of a gradual increase in the quantity of cannabis taken. Among them four spoke of also taking other drugs to facilitate their concentration and the Aghoripanthis spoke of use of liquor in addition to cannabis and other drugs.


VII.2. Duration and quantity consumed

VII.2.1. Duration of Use

Studies among heroin and other hard drug users speak of attempts to control their drug use or discontinue use through institutional or non-institutional mechanisms. With increased consumption of hard drugs, users find it difficult to lead a functional life and there is no purposeful attempt to increase quantity of intake (Charles et. al. 1999). Unlike this within samnyasi communities the emphasis is on the continued use of psychoactive substances with a gradual rise in the quantity of consumption. Among the nineteen samnyasis interviewed, all consumed psychoactive substances continuously for more than two decades without facing any problem. Among them six had consumed drugs continuously for more than three decades, and seven for more than four decades.


VII.2.2. Quantity of Consumption

The quantity consumed is not considered by them to be an issue of concern other than in the context of being in control, in order to perform spiritual tasks. This is evident from the response of all samnyasis that there are no restrictions on the quantity of consumption and the time of consumption. It is acceptable to the samnyasi community that a member may use drug regularly.


Overall, the responses of the samnyasis indicate that they can smoke around 17 chillum per day of one or different types of drugs. From field observation, it has been noted that the most commonly smoked substance is charas, though among nineteen samnyasis, four stated that they had consumed substances other than ganja or charas. If one were to consider that on an average a samnyasi consumed 17 chillums, then it would mean s/he took more than 85 grams of charas a day. This considering 5gms of charas being used for one chillum. In a month the quantity used would be around 2550gm a month and 306Kgs a year. The computation for consumption by samnyasis across the country brings forth an interesting aspect on the impact of criminalisation on the traditional use of drugs. If one were to consider the conservative figure of 100,000 for saivite samnyasis in the county, their annual requirement for charas would be around (306Kgs x 100,000= 3,06,00,000) 30,600 tonnes.


VII.3. Graduation in the process of drug use

Within the saivite community the focus is to gradually increase the quantity of consumption with emphasis laid on not losing control. In addition to increasing the quantity of cannabis consumed, four of the saivite samnyasis spoke of taking different drugs in combination to enhance their concentration and search for enlightenment. This process also occurred under the guidance of the guru.


A saivite samnyasi from Giri order spoke about his introduction to various forms of psychoactive substances as part of his ascetic life. He spoke of the pain of losing his close family members having motivated him to join the ascetic sect at an early age and he became a chella to a samnyasi he met on the train.


`One day my guru decided to give me diksha and after that I was given ganja, which I consumed in his presence. Its intoxication was mild and pleasant, it felt good’.


`After a few years I got accustomed to ganja and then I was introduced to charas by the Mahatma and then began to take charas regularly. I was similarly introduced to datura at the age of 25 and sometime later to scorpion poison. I do not remember clearly when I began to take snake venom for it was years ago and now I am over 60 years old. I remember the first time I took any new drug it was always in front of my guru and under his guidance’.


`I later came to Junaghad and decided to be here and it was here on a Shivaratri day that I (with my guru’s blessing) took Mahachillum[42] for the first time. Prior to taking the Mahachillum I have taken these drugs separately and in combination of twos but never together’.


Among a total of nineteen informants only four have taken different psychoactive substances the rest have been life long users of cannabis products. Of the four who used different drugs two consumed liquor and to illustrate the variation an example of an Aghoripanthi is given below:


`I took liquor in my adolescence and later charas with hard drinks. At the age of 16, I took datura for one year and then started on scorpion poison and later snake poison. After some years I visited a cemetery with my father and there, for the first time I took Mahabhag’.


`Mahabhag is a cocktail of different types of drugs ganja, charas, datura, pincers of scorpion, skin of cobra, english liquor, Mauva[43] liquor. The drinks are mixed together and drugs are mixed in chillum and offered to Bhairava. When my father expired, I took his place for by then I had learnt most of the aghori rituals. I stay in Mount Abu and come to Junaghad for Mahashivaratri.  I have never experienced a high, except when I took Mahabhag’.


`We consider drugs to be prasadi from Bhairava and is part of our sadhana for it helps to the control mind and sense organs thereby making sadhana a joyous experience’.


VII.4. Experimentation with hard drugs

Natural products of psychoactive plants have been accorded a cultural acceptance but this does not apply to the derivative products of these plants. This has been seen in the case of heroin, which in the eighties was considered to be a foreign drug (Charles, Even after heroin has become available for years on the streets of Mumbai no  cultural acceptance has evolved for the same, though it is being marketed as desi mal (literally  country stuff) on the streets of Mumbai. Desi mal refers to brown sugar or crude heroin that is processed locally from raw opium. Given the availability of the drug, the study inquired into the acceptance for hard drugs among saivite samnyasis.


Queries on the use of derivative substances evoked a strong negative reaction ranging from a strong non-verbal disapproval to the response ‘this is not a question to be asked to a samnyasi’. At the same time, five informants admitted having used hard drugs but discontinued it for they did not find them conducive for their meditation and spiritual search.


A Naga dasnami sadhvik, who became an ascetic as she could not deal with the constant disharmony in her parents’ relationship, said `I have smoked gard (brown sugar) in a chillum and sniffed cocaine on one occasion; these substances were brought by my devotees. I took them out of curiosity and found them to be useless. One does not feel ecstasy, on the contrary the mind get disturbed’.


Another informant from the reformist group of Udasin samnyasis said `A devotee brought gard and I took it once out of curiosity, It made me forgetful and I found the experience disturbing and chaotic`.

All five informants found their experience with hard drugs to be negative; and all had received the substance from the devotees and consumed it out of curiosity.



The pattern of drug consumption within the samnyasis community is moulded by religious faith and it plays a crucial role in the process of meditation and continued concentration. The religious dimension is clear in the entire process of drug consumption that occurs in the samnyasis life. Introduction to the use of psychoactive substances occurs in the religious context for religious reasons. This aspect is emphasised by the setting and orientation provided to the new entrant. There is no attempt to hide the habit but a display of achievement is made in terms of the capacity to handle large quantities of drugs and thereby enhance continued concentration. The discourse conducted in the community while consuming the substance is on religion and gaining new information on spiritual achievement.


The conceptual model adapted for the study indicated that antecedent factors play a role in the `drug effect’ that is experienced by members of religious groups.  Among the biological factors, those that have relevance with a study of religious sects are age (joining the sect at a young age) and gender (the saivite membership is not open to women). Life long celibacy is important among members of all sects, except among Augharas, who consider the sexual act a part of the spiritual search or means of enhancing psychic energy. Use of psychoactive substance facilitated control food of and the ability to deal with extreme climatic conditions and continue uninterrupted sadhana.


The level of motivation is important from the point view of entry into the sect. The decision occurs at an early age, but after having been enculturated to a worldly life. Augharas are an exception because they are born into an Aughara family.  Continuation of ascetic life also requires continued motivation to do so. It is this motivation and resultant identification with the group that facilitates saivite samnyasis to continue an ascetic way of life. Consumption of psychoactive substances goes on to strengthen these expectations further.


The entire process instils a felling of respect towards the psychoactive substance through the place selected for consumption, the power structure within a group and norms to be adhered to while smoking. The rituals surrounding its preparation, manner of sharing the chillum, lighting of the chillum and the act of smoking etc. all of which reinforce the role of psychoactive substances in an ascetic’s life. The presence of a guru facilitates the resocialisation of the new recruit.


The presence of cultural factors such as myths, symbols, values, expectation and beliefs surrounding the role of psychoactive substances in meditation contributes to the enculturation process whereby a saivite samnyasi begins to perceive the substances in a totally different way from the manner in which drug abuse management does.


These antecedent factors in combination with the physiological impact of drugs and spiritual activities create drugs effects such as concentration, altered states of consciousness and belief in attaining moksa. The physiological aspects of the drugs are considered important as seen from the avoidance of derivative drugs. The negative experience with derivative drugs with regard to reaching a state of continued concentration has only strengthened the decision to avoid such drugs among smanyasis.


VIII. Transference of religious use to outside religious community.

The religious community has evolved its own rationale for consumption, based on religious myths, beliefs and transferred its contextual use through specifications on the forms of consumption, the role of psychoactive substances in asceticism, the setting for use, and regulations based on individual reality or pattern of use. This through the years has evolved as a form of use management.


Transference of this form of use management to the general public was focused upon through data on interaction between samnyasis and general public. This occurs when these samnyasis interact with devotees and during the celebration of Shivaratri.


VIII. 1. Interaction between samnyasis and bhagats

Both inside and outside the akhada, bhagat come to pay homage and bring prasad for samnyasis. When devotees came to meet the dasnami naga at the temporary shed, they brought with them ganja, charas or money which they offered with great reverence. Money is given as a token gesture. In the act of giving prasad to the samnyasis the person is very submissive – the devotee bends over in a subordinate manner and places the money before the samnyasi. When psychoactive substances are given the same procedure is followed.


Later, they sit at a distance from the samnyasi and often at a level lower than the samnyasi. Chillum is prepared by the samnyasi’s chela which is then lit by the samnyasi, who takes the first puff, before passing it to his chelas and devotees. Smoking is restricted to sharing one chillum and samnyasis don’t encourage devotees to smoke large quantities. Field observation did show that on rare occasions the devotees did fall asleep after smoking.


A dasnami samnyasi who chose to be an ascetic because of difficultly in accepting worldly life and discord at home, spoke of his interaction with bhagats


`From the prasad brought by the devotees I share a chillum with them as prasad. There is nothing fixed about the visits from devotees, it ranges from weekly visits to an annual visit by some. When we meet our interaction revolves around problems at home and concerns about their children. I also communicate to them about devotion and religious concerns’.


`The parasadi (drug) that is given to devotees is based on their capacity to tolerate drugs. Otherwise, we see them using ganja/bhang during religious festivals like Shivaratri or Janasmashtami. Use by worldly people is not encouraged as it is not appropriate for worldly life’.


Unlike the various sects of saivite samnyasis, the Aghoripanthis do not share their chillum with their devotees. According to an informant from the Aghoripanthi sect Even if the devotee brings ganja or charas as prasad we don’t share our chillum with them. If, they want, they bring their own chillum and smoke with us. During their visit they speak about their troubles and ask us about ways of making their sorrows less’.


VIII. 2. Shivaratri Celebration

Religious festivals like Shivaratri and Janmashtami are celebrated with the consumption of cannabis, especially in the form of bhang. It is taken by all, including women and children, who otherwise are not allowed to take psychoactive substances as per cultural norms. This has been documented by other studies (Chopra et. al. 1990, Hasan 1975 and Fisher 1975) and by the present study as well.


On Shivaratri, inside the temple of Lord Siva the pujari gives bhang as prasad to devotees who come to pray. For women and children small quantities of bhang is given. In the case of infants a small drop is given as a symbolic gesture of blessing from the Lord. In addition to this outside the temple but within the temple precincts bhang, charas and ganja are given to male devotees while women are given bhang. Sometimes snacks and cakes made from bhang are also distributed.


As pointed out by Anand, a resident of Himachal Pradesh At the Shiva temple bhang is distributed during Shivaratri. It is given in a glass outside the temple and is prepared by the samnyasi. Bhang is distributed during bhajan sessions.



Transference of knowledge from the samnyasi community to the general public occurs either during religious celebration or when devotees seek the help or advice of the samnyasi they revere. The entire process of sharing occurs with the samnyasis occupying a position of respect. The quantity consumed is limited and the religious association with drug consumption is strengthened through the recital of the Lord’s name or the singing of bhajans. Excessive consumption is not encouraged among the devotees and in different ways the idea is reinforced that cannabis and chillum are gifts from Lord Siva and meant for ascetics.


There is a significant difference in the role played by psychoactive substances in the lives of ascetics and that of people leading a worldly life. This smanyasis emphasise the need to focus on increasing quantity and a regularity of consumption, whereas the people living a worldly life, focus  on restricting the use in both quantity and regularity and to the adult male population who are allowed to smoke chillum, whereas women and children are allowed to drink bhang or have snacks made from bhang.



IX. Conclusion

Local wisdom, evolved through centuries is transferred through myths, symbols, music and scriptures; which provide information on the ascetic life and the role of psychotropic substances. After entry into the saivite life, the cultural expectation is reinforced through a different mechanism that includes the guidance provided by the guru and the strong power dynamics that exist between guru and chela; that facilitates total acceptance on the part of the chela. The process is strengthened by specifications on the setting for use, the norms to be adhered to during consumption, the need for group acceptance, the presence of a common goal granting acceptance for psychoactive substances for a desire to control food intake and sensual stimulation and thereby enhance the Jap. The specification on setting for use refers to the religious context of use, where the place of consumption is close to temple area or locations of religious sanctity. Norms adhered to during consumption refers to process of preparing the substances for consumption, use of sanctioned substances, recital of the Lords name prior to intake of the substance, emphasis on showing respect to the substance as a gift from the Lord, a restriction on those allowed to light a chillum when taken in a group setting and the manner in which the chillum is passed around. The role of psychoactive substances as facilitating spiritual advancement is adhered to by the community creating group acceptance. The topics discussed during consumption also emphasises the groups acceptance of a common goal with regard to the intake of psychoactive substances. In addition to this the role play by the psychoactive substances in controlling food intake and sensual desires is focussed upon as a means to facilitate concentration and Jap


When psychoactive substances are consumed in a controlled manner along with an orientation to local wisdom it creates the impact desired upon the user. It includes facilitating continued concentration and thereby a synthesis of different aspects of ascetic life such as tapas, celibacy and ecstasy. The ability to graduate in drug consumption brings social mobility to the user/s where only s/he is respected as privileged to be able to have mahachillum or mahabhag. The entire experience for the samnyasi is a part of the spiritual journey, going further ahead towards unity with the lord.


The entire framework for the consumption of psychoactive substances is based on a belief system translated through different guidelines which creates an expectation with regard to use, which when achieved only further strengthens centuries old local wisdom. Through, the synthesis of the role of psychoactive substance in ascetic life, a mechanism of use management is generated. This mechanism of controlled use where religious links are emphasised is also transferred to the rest of the society, Thereby a framework for use management through non-formal norms is created- wherein psychoactive substance intake is but a part of life.













Socio-cultural use of Psychoactive Plant Products



In this chapter, culturally embedded use of psychoactive plant products for social, recreational and medicinal purposes are seen alongside its other role of emphasising and furthering religious beliefs, both within and outside the religious community.


To elaborate upon the use of psychoactive plant products outside the religious context, data on the utilisation of psychoactive substances for various social, medicinal, nutritional purposes and as a fibre are presented.


The data for the same were collected from users and also from practitioners of traditional systems of medicine. Through secondary data on diverse forms of use in certain tribes/castes or geographical location, the cultural mechanisms of control that evolved are presented. Given the cultural context of use, data were also collected to understand the impact of the criminal approach on the use of psychoactive substances.


This chapter is divided into two sections. Section I presents non-psychoactive use of psychoactive substance, drug use in social occasions and for its psychoactive properties. Section II is devoted to medicinal use.



Section I

I.1 Psychoactive Plants and their Non-Psychoactive Use

A negative perception of psychoactive plant products becomes irrelevant when the products are used for nutrition or as a source of raw material for providing non psychoactive products. The cannabis plant has been an important source of fibre, whereby families could produce cloth, shoes and bags to meet their requirement. This practice continues to exist in parts of India and it was common in other parts of the world, prior to invention of nylon. Herer (1951) has pointed out that before the invention of synthetic fibre around eighty percent of all of mankind’s need of fabrics for cloth, tents, linen, rugs, drapes, quilts, bed sheets, towels etc came from hemp. The replacement of hemp products softer, warmer and more durable than cotton was not without resistance. Federal Bureau of investigation officials were threatened by shotgun wielding Polish Americans, when attempts were made to destroy the cannabis plant grown by them in their backyard for producing winter clothing for the family.

In India, the cannabis plant was cultivated for its fibre in the state of Uttar Pradesh (Chopra et. al. 1990). A recent study in Himachal Pradesh (Charles (b) 2001) indicated that the cannabis plant grown in Chamba and parts of Manali provides fibre, used to make bags, shoes, ropes and jackets. The stem of the cannabis plant is soaked in water for hours to separate the fibre to weave the fabric. These products were made for family members, and only under rare circumstances sold in the market for additional income.


The use of psychoactive plants produce as a source of nutrition is another age old practice. Cannabis seeds are consumed by local people in Himachal Pradesh as a source of energy, during winter- while out in the hills they eat it along with seeds of poppy to keep warm.  They also use the seeds to produce cooking oil (Charles (b) 2002), this practice has also been documented in Nepal (Hasan 1975). In other countries cannabis seeds were used to prepare porridge, soups and gruel (Herer 1991).


Recent findings indicate that cannabis seeds have a nutritional value a reason for its use in treating the wasting disease among AIDS patients. In addition to being an important source for vegetable protein, it is the composition of the protein in the hemp plant that makes it easily edible to the human body. It is this unique property of cannabis that make it possible even for individuals infected with nutrition blocking tuberculosis to benefit from the vegetable protein in hemp plant (Herer 1991). This is an important issue in the Indian context, as tuberculosis is a major concern for India and, fieldwork in slums in Mumbai indicates that infected persons are rendered vulnerable by the lack of adequate nutrition[44].


Poppy seeds from the opium capsule are a part of the Indian cuisine and this is collected from the leftovers of the capsule after the latex has been taken. Thus, both cannabis and poppy plant products have been used for non- psychoactive purposes. Under the circumstances there is in existence a clear absence of a negative perception towards psychoactive plant products in the Indian cultural context.


I.2. Social Context of Cannabis Use

Products of the cannabis plant have been used for socio-cultural purposes in different parts of the country. Traditionally in certain regions of India different items were sent by the bride’s family to the groom’s family, one of them being bhang during marriage celebrations. The practice was seen among Gujaratis of various sects, including Jains and Brahmins. Non-adherence to such a practice evoked contempt. After the marriage celebrations, held at the bride’s home for the bridegroom and his friends, included the distribution of richly spiced bhang (Indian Hemp Commission 1984).


Culturally accepted use of cannabis was not restricted to the Hindu community of Gujarat nor was it the only state to have the practice. Among the Muslims of Gujarat the bride, both before and after marriage, drinks a preparation of bhang. The north Indians in Mumbai used to give bhang to visitors and those who failed to do so were considered miserly and mean by others in the community (Indian Hemp Commission 1984). The distribution of cannabis during marriage is considered important among Lambani community in Karnataka (Rao 1994), for it is a matter of prestige.


Besides its consumption as part of celebration, cannabis played a part in preparing for warfare, prior to a battle and during it; the Linga of Mahadev (Lord Siva) is bathed with bhang. It is believed that bhang drives away panic and warriors are able to fight away fear and weariness. A Rajput in battle, when faced with defeat, would shave his hair and then have bhang before rushing to his enemy to complete his self-sacrifice. It is this quality of bhang that gave it the name Vijaya or victorious.


Bhang is used to celebrate festivals in the country. In West-Bengal it was customary, on the last day of Durga Puja[45], to offer bhang to every guest and members of the family. Drunk as a token gesture, along with the sweetmeats also prepared of bhang. Other festivals for which bhang is used are Holi[46], Shankranti[47], Diwali [48]and Duseera[49].  During these occasions women and youngsters are allowed to have drinks and snacks made with bhang. The use of bhang during Holi exists in many parts of the country, both in rural areas and in the cities. According to Vikram, an informant from Uttar Pradesh, use of bhang on a daily basis is common in many part of the State. Women and youngsters are allowed to consume bhang during Holi celebrations and the bhang is prepared as a family or community affair with women playing a major role. This form of consumption is practised even when individuals from Uttar Pradesh migrate to other cities. In Mumbai, of bhang during celebration of Holi continues to be practiced, Ritesh, who lives in the central part of Mumbai said During Holi the families from Uttar Pradesh are involved in preparation of bhang drink. I have been involved in their celebration for the last ten years. Bhang is made in the night and kept for hours before consuming it. During the other time of year, bhang is not used by the community. Bhang prepared by the family is shared with anyone who wants to participate.


In northern part of India, there is another festival Bhagoriah which is celebrated prior to festival of colours. It is held for the selection of spouses.  During this week long festival the assemblage shifts from one place to another, adjusting with the market days of the other villages of the region. Old men and women stay in the camp itself, allowing the unmarried boys and girls to participate in the festival.

The youth separate in groups and move to and fro in the market carrying with them gulal, a red coloured powder. The boy express his feeling for the girl by applying gulal on her forehead, to reciprocate the girl also has to apply the powder on his forehead. The girl is also given to eat 'majoom' (mixture of molasses, bhang and green colour). If the girl swallows majoom, she automatically becomes his property. Later their decision is conveyed to their parents and if they agree steps are taken to arrange their nuptials.

In addition to religious use and as part of social function, cannabis has also been a part of process of protesting against caste system in India. In the temple town of Puri, in Orissa this has been explored.  The town is dominated by priests and persons attached to the temple. Nearly half of the population is dependent on the temple either as priests/ wardens of the temple or as pilgrim guides. All of them are known as sevakas.


The lower caste people started worshipping a deity of their own, popularly known as ‘Trinath Mela’ consisting of three deities, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar. This was done to bring both Saivites (followers of Lord Siva) and Vaishanavites (followers of Lord Vishnu) under one fold and to eliminate the role of Brahmins in performing the puja (Hindu religious ceremony). To worship Trinath Mela, three ingredients are required: oil, betel nut and ganja. Ganja is used as prasad to be inhaled through a clay or wooden pipe by each participant (Ray 1989; NISD 1992)



I.3 Social Context for consumption of Poppy Plant Products

The culturally embedded use of Opium drink or Kasumba pani has been present among Rajputs in Gujarat and Rajasthan. In Gujarat a study on use of Kasumba Pani (Mashi el al 1994) pointed that it was taken in a group setting, known as dayaro. Organized at the residence of a chieftain or person of high social standing - the participants (often from the elite class) are given tea and snacks along with the opium drink during the group gathering.


To create a sense of identification among the participants, members of the Rajput and Kanthi community, verses were recited to praise the valour of Rajputs who fought on behalf of the leaders or lords. In these gatherings the ‘Charan’ a person from the upper caste who recited verses was given the freedom to bring out the negative aspects of the regime or ruling class - this acted as a form of ventilation, for any form of criticism was not tolerated otherwise. (Mashi et. al. 1994)


In Rajasthan, the opium drink is integral to the culture, playing a part in many social gatherings. Opium is given in celebration, to express solidarity, to greet or confirm an agreement of marriage, to seal a business transaction agreement or to greet a guest. It is a token gesture, and excessive drinking is not encouraged. The user gets to decide the quantity he would consume, as the drink is poured into open palms the individual is permitted to widen the gap between fingers to take in just the amount he wants to consume.


In these forms of use, consumption was regulated as it was taken in a group setting and the substance shared. Custom regulated the quantity consumed and the setting for use. As an accepted practice the consumption of drugs formed a part of many activities or get-togethers, the focus was just not on the drug use alone. The presence of elders in the group gathering, during social functions, facilitated intervention in case youth used the substance excessively. The regulation also prevented young children and women from participating. (Charles (c) 2001).  Besides these, people in Rajashan used to deal with extreme climate of the desert by opium intake. Opium is also given to camels to enable it to travel long distances through the hot desert. 


I.4. Psychoactive Plant Products as Relaxant /Mind Altering Substance

The use of psychoactive plant products for relaxation and as a mind altering substance exists in many parts of India, even today. The impact of western culture is seen in the manner of use of psychoactive substances, as well. Earlier, the consumption of alcohol was taboo to upper caste members (Fisher 1975) unlike opium and cannabis. But, at present flourishing expensive liquor outlets in most states (other than Gujarat where there is prohibition) catering to members of all castes and class show a shift in perception.


During a interview on drug trade and use with an eminent lawyer in Delhi, he pointed out: In urban areas there is a high social status accorded to alcohol, and illustrated; an assistant to an advocate would take pride in announcing to a visitor that his boss is enjoying scotch with his friends; but would not dream of doing so in the case of opium. The stigma attached to opium and cannabis is seen in some urban cities but not in rural areas, where acceptance of controlled use continues.


In Punjab poppy straw is used to make tea, as a common practice (Charles 2004). The use of cannabis and opium in different forms as a relaxant or for altered states of consciousness exists in Uttar Pradesh and there is social acceptance as indicated by cannabis users. The legal sanction for such consumption for the present is limited to bhang and it is used in Uttar Pradesh without creating cause for concern (Tripathi 1989).


To present the social acceptance for use of traditional drugs in Himachal Pradesh data based on observation and interviews with informants is presented.


I.4.1.Place of consumption and Social Acceptance

The place of consumption of cannabis and absence of alienation of cannabis users is an indication of social acceptance for cannabis consumption in Himachal Pradesh. In a village in Kullu district the local people share their cannabis filled chillum out in the open with their friends; whether along the lanes or at the bus-stop waiting to board a bus. Unlike this whenever heroin users consumed their drug there is systematic planning to ensure that it is not seen by their families or members in their community. Even when consumed out in the open it is the marginalised street level drug users who chase their drug in the open. Their locations for use are places that are avoided by the public, next to garbage bins, close to open toilets or along unused railway tracks. Besides, the public treat these heroin users with disgust and also use derogatory terms to refer to them (Charles et. al. 1999).


This form of negative reaction from community is absent with regard to cannabis users in Himcahal Pradesh. To illustrate the same the observation of cannabis use by a manager of book store is given. Nitesh, in his mid thirties manages a book shop that provides library facility and also sells books to the tourist and the local people in the area. It is not rare for Nitesh and his friends to smoke cannabis inside the book store, while they fill their cigarette and smoke it the customers and others who visit the store see nothing amiss.


All the ten cannabis users interviewed said they had not been alienation or differentiated against because of cannabis use. One of the informants, Vikas aged 30 spoke about cannabis consumption. He discontinued his schooling as he was not interested in academics. His father has a small shop and at present Vikas is involved in helping his father with his business I have been taking cannabis for years without facing problems. The first time I took cannabis was in the form of bhang during Shivaratri. It was prepared at my friend’s residence, with women and children participating in the process.  It was later in my early teens that I began to smoke chillum with my friends. Prior to this I have seen my father smoke charas in the chillum with his friends. In all these years of smoking I have never felt the need to give up my habit, nor have any of my family or others approached me asking me to give up cannabis use.


I.4.2.Community action against derivative drugs and not cannabis


The efforts made by people in the Kullu district, is a clear indication of the difference in community reaction to cannabis and derivative drugs, such as heroin. In the mid eighties, through the Afghans local shopkeepers got oriented to trading in brown sugar. Clients were canvassed by first giving the drug to youth (who used cannabis) for safekeeping or giving it free for testing the new drug. Once the local youth became addicted to brown sugar, they began to go to any extremes to get money to buy the drug. Since, the dealers after the initial period of free dispersal began to charge exorbitant prices from users who by then had become dependent on the drug and it led to the youth selling whatever assets they could lay their hands on, including immovable assets for a meagre amount. Such action angered the near relatives of users who came together along with other members of the affected families and decided to intervene with or without police support. The important people of the locality, with the indirect support of police officials, caught hold of the dealers and paraded them on donkeys after blackening their faces and making them wear garlands of slippers. In addition to this they caught hold of the Afghans and put them in vehicles leaving from Himachal Pradesh. They also ensured that no Afghan was allowed to come and trade in Kullu district.


Through the years the spread of brown sugar among users have been negligible.  Data from the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, in the year 1999 shows the seizure of brown sugar was 58gms and for the year 2000, 83 gms. The users, who became addicted to brown sugar in the eighties, were kept locked in rooms, but this did not help, and some of them later sought treatment in Delhi while others continued to take brown sugar. In spite of the strong protest on the part of the public, brown sugar continues to trickle in via Delhi, but never in large quantities (Charles, (b) 2001). The absence of the use of derivative drugs has been also indicated by another study based on data collected from clients visiting treatment centres for drug users (Siddiqui 2002). 

Section II


II.1 Use of Psychoactive Substances in Traditional Systems of Medicine

The important traditional systems of medicine in India are Siddha, Ayurveda, Unani and Tibbi. The Siddha system of medicine developed in Tamil Nadu and owes its origin to the Dravidian culture. The word Siddha is a Tamil word derived from its root `chit’ which means perfection of life or heavenly bliss. Siddhars are enlightened souls with supernatural powers who in their search for truth developed knowledge whereby man could gain mastery over nature. Among Siddhars, Agathiyar is the most prominent and he wrote many volumes on medicine, yoga and philosophy.


Siddha considers man and nature to be essentially one and the focus is on the five elements, earth, water, fire, air and ether. It is a suitable proportion of these elements in combination with each other that produces a healthy person. The human body consists of three humours, vatha (air), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm) and these are activated by the five elements and an imbalance in humours may cause disease. 


The pharmacopoeia of the Siddha tradition uses mercury, sulphur, iron, copper, gold, bituman, white, yellow and red arsenic, vegetable poisons and psychoactive plant products. Siddhars caution the use of metals and minerals as unless they be well oxidised they could cause trouble. Advice to patients on diet restrictions and treatment depended on age, climate and the land itself.


In the early period Siddhars have accounted for a total of 4448 diseases that occur among human beings. These diseases were mentioned along with their symptoms and the medicines prescribed. This knowledge was transferred to their disciples coded as poems. At present it is intelligible only to only those who have access to the writings who are ones who have received the information handed down by an earlier generation trained in the field. This form of medicine is practised in the southern states of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore (Shanmugavelan  1963). 


Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word which means `Science of Life’ or `Longevity’, this knowledge has been handed over from generations and it is mentioned as a subsection in Atharvaveda. It is basically delineated into two schools- Atreya- The school of Physcians and Dhanvantri- The school of surgeons. Later Charaka authored Charaka Samhita by revising and supplementing the texts written by Atreya. In a similar manner Susruta who followed Dhanvantri School of thought wrote Susruta Samhita. Besides these two treatises on Ayurveda, Vagbhatt compiled the third major treatise- Astanga Hridyaya comprising of knowledge from the two schools of Ayurveda. Unlike the other treatise Astanga Hridyan emphasises the physiological aspect of the body rather than the spiritual aspect.


The basic emphasis of Ayurveda is akin to Siddha, being on the five elements and three humours, vatha, pitta and kapha. It is their interaction that ensures a healthy body and mind. Charaka Samhita focuses on healing the body, mind and soul of the patient in a manner that is least invasive and hence great emphasis in placed on the diagnosis of disease.


Susruta is renowned as the father of surgery and his Samhita discussed in minute detail how to perform prosthetic surgery to replace limbs, cosmetic surgery on the nose and other parts of the body, caesarean operations, the setting of compound fractures and even brain surgery. This body of knowledge evolved from a need to deal with the aftermath of war. In his work Susruta details 125 surgical instruments used by him which were made of natural materials. He was the first surgeon to systematically elaborate on the anatomical structure of the eye. He discussed 72 diseases of the eye and mentioned drug therapy for conjunctivitis, glaucoma, surgical procedure for removal of cataract, diseases of the ear, nose and throat.


Ayurveda was passed on to other countries, the Egyptians learnt about it through its sea trade with India, before the great invasion of Alexander. Around 323 BC, Nagarjuna, the great monastic of Mahayana Buddhism and an authority on Ayurveda wrote a review on Susrata Samhita. It is through Buddhism that Ayurveda influenced Tibetian and Chinese medicine.


Unani or Unani-tibbor- Arab medicine is a system of Greek medicine that developed with Arab civilisation. It did borrow and adapt therapies from Ayurveda system of medicine and with Muslim rule it came back to India and its interaction with Ayurveda increased. At present this stream of traditional medicine is practised in India and Pakistan. The Unani system of medicine focuses on the four humours of the human body; blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. The Unani system of medicine emphasises on the physician being able to activate human nature and follow its powers without antagonising it. In the case of Tibbi, the basic philosophy is that the human body consists of mind and matter and it is when they are in balance that harmony is possible. Drugs used for treatment should not serve as a quick remedy which in the end can generate serious side effects (Robert 1983).


In addition to the classical stream of medicine (Siddha, Ayurveda, Unani-Tibbi), there is also the oral tradition practised by the rural villagers (Tewari 2000). The carriers of this tradition are housewives, traditional birth attendants, bone setters, village practitioners skilled in acupressure, eye treatment, treatment of snake poison, traditional village healers or herbal healers, the vaidyas or tribal physicians. These health practitioners largely meet the primary health care needs of rural India and it runs parallel to the state supported modern health care systems. Their service goes largely unnoticed and their potential not fully utilised.


The rural people who constitute 70 to 75% of the Indian population live in about 5,76,000 villages located in different climatic conditions.  These village people have their own diverse systems of health management.  While most of the common ailments were managed in the house by home remedies which included many species and condiments like pepper, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, tamarind, fenugreek, tulsi, etc., more complicated cases were attended to by traditional physicians who use a large number of plants from the ambient vegetation and some products of animal or mineral origin to deal with the local diseases and ailments.  These are indeed community managed systems independent of official or government system.  The traditional village physicians of India are using about 4500 to 5000 species of plants for medicinal purpose. There is however no systematic, inventory and documentation of folk remedies of India. There is urgent need to document this fast disappearing precious knowledge system. The oral tradition of the villagers uses about 5000 plants for medicinal purposes.  India is also inhabited by a large number of tribal communities who also posses a precious and unique knowledge about the use of wild plants for treating human ailments.  A survey conducted by the All India Coordinated Research Project on Ethnobiology (AICRPE) during the last decade recorded over 8000 species of wild plants used by the various tribal population and other traditional communities in India for treating various health problems.


It is against this background that data from traditional practitioners of medicine as informants are presented here. It is to be noted that traditional practitioners of medicine with and without institutional training, continue to exist in India.


II.2. Medicinal Use of Psychoactive Substances

Psychoactive plant products are a part of traditional systems of medicines, such as Ayurveda, Unani, Tibbi and Sidha. Opium and cannabis have both been employed as therapeutic agents for over ten centuries. Prior to the 8th century there was no reference to the medicinal properties of cannabis or opium in the Ayurvedic medicinal classics. The Ayurveda system appears to have adapted cannabis and opium from Unani medicine brought to India in the 9th century by the Muslims and it came to be known as Unani Tibbi (Dwarawanath 1965; Chopra et. al. 1990)


Folk medicine in India had been using cannabis and opium from the 4th to 5th century BC. Ayurvedic works of materia medica such as Dhanwantari nighantu (8th century AD), Madanpala nighantu (1374 AD) and Rajanighantu (1450 AD) have described the properties, actions and indications of both cannabis and opium. It is probably the interaction between the two systems of knowledge that led to many preparations containing cannabis and opium entering Ayurveda.


Chopra (1990) and Dwarakanath (1965) have elaborated on use of psychoactive plants in Traditional system of medicine. According to them among Ayurvedic formulations 48 contain cannabis, of them four are for dyspepsia (such as Ajirnai rasa, Jwalanala rasa, Vijaya rasa), eight are preparations for diarrhoea, fourteen for chronic diarrhoea, three for nervous system diseases, and two preparations for diseases of the head, one for Phlegmogenous disorders, another to vitalise the body and fifteen as aphrodisiacs.


With regard to opium in Ayurvedic formulations, there are eighteen preparations that contain opium; seven are for diarrhoea, seven for chronic diarrhoea, one for insomnia and three as aphrodisiacs.


Arabic and Persian medical works such as Firdous ul-Hikmat and Mujardat Gunan that describe the properties of cannabis and opium have also included a number of formulations containing cannabis and opium. The potion containing cannabis and linctus containing opium were popular in Arabia and this influence was also seen in Unani Tibbi (Chopra et. al. 1990).


In Unani Tibbi medicine, of eight preparations containing cannabis - six are aphrodisiacs; one is used for diarrhoea and another for nocturnal emissions. Of nine opium containing preparations in Unani Tibbi, three are aphrodisiacs, three used for catarrh and the remaining are one each for dysentery, hemicranias and acute conjunctivitis.


Dwarakanath (1965) prepared a national level status paper on the use of psychoactive plant products in traditional systems of medicine. According to him the access to psychoactive plant products by practitioners of traditional systems of medicine continued to be important. It is required to meet the medical needs of traditional practitioners who cater to health care needs of 80%of the rural population. Otherwise it can create a vacuum.  A large percentage of practitioners of traditional systems of medicine are not institutionally trained, from a total of 500,000 practitioners only 30,000 practitioners were institutionally qualified. The situation has not changed drastically in the last four decades. The present status paper written for the government (Tewari 2000) has addressed the need to strengthen the traditional systems of health care, as the institutionally qualified are rarely interested in practicing in rural areas.


In an attempt to modernise the traditional systems of medicine, institutionally trained persons were provided further training, by the government as part of an attempt to organise the health care system in India, to prescribe sedatives, hypnotics, analgesics, sulfa drugs and antibiotics. All the same this did not affect rural health care, as the rural areas depended on non-institutionally trained traditional practitioners and therefore there continued a need for providing traditional psychoactive plant products to these practitioners (Dwarakanath 1965).


The focus of the government strategy then was, interestingly, to replace the traditional system of medicine by western medicine and not retain evolved local wisdom even when at instances they are far more appropriate than western medicine. The issue will become crucial as World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulations on pharmaceutical products in India may lead to increased prices, taking it beyond the reach of many. At present the government has created special schemes to facilitate existing traditional systems of medicine, though in the major part it is to but export medicinal plants to other countries.


II.3. Practitioners of Traditional systems Of Medicine

Practitioners of traditional systems of medicine, especially the institutionally trained, variedly utilise company manufactured drugs. Interviews with those institutionally trained in Ayurveda and Siddha indicate a majority do depend on manufactured drugs and prescribe the same. They spoke of having learnt about the use of cannabis and poppy plant products and having seen specimens in labs on being trained as doctors but never of having personally prepared medicines with cannabis or poppy plant products.


As pointed out by Dr. Ashok a practitioner of three years standing though the text books speak of the medicinal preparation of bhang, in my practice the drugs prescribed are manufactured by companies, and substitute drugs are often used. This does affect the effectiveness of the medicine. Others expressed the same opinion even though they did prescribe preparations containing cannabis or opium, when of company manufacture.


Practitioners trained by a guru (family member) and oriented to treatment practices at an early age form a large part of the non-institutionally trained traditional practitioners in India. They cater to the poor and the rural population though not exclusively. To elaborate further on the implication of NDPS Act, 1985, the use of cannabis, poppy and datura plant products in their practice was documented.


Data were collected from practitioners of traditional systems of medicine, especially siddha practitioners and herbal practitioners, who form part of the folk stream and are also known as vaidyas, from a district in Tamil Nadu. The area was selected as the presence of siddha practitioners and herbal practitioners are significant here.




II.4. Use of Psychoactive Plant Products by Traditional Practitioners

Observation and data collected from key informants indicate that traditional practitioners of medicine who received their training from a guru continue to prepare their own medicine for treatment of patients. Among the medicinal preparation made by them some contain cannabis, poppy and dhataru plant products. Data from 27 practitioners who use at least one of these plants for healthcare is collected and presented below:

Table No: 1

Use of Psychoactive Plant Products for common ailments data summary on basis of 27 informants




Plant Product

No Of Practitioners Using it


Treating burns

Cannabis products



Boils on the body




Stomach ailments

Poppy plant products,

cannabis and Poppy plant,






For healthy skin

Poppy plant



Stomach pain




Crack in the heel

Cannabis products







Skin diseases

Poppy plant products



For scars

Poppy plant products



Abdomen swelling




Blackhead on face

Poppy plant products



Insect bite

Poppy plant products



Body odour

Cannabis plant products



Poisonous insect bite

Oil from datura







Swelling on neck of animals









Poppy plant products



Menstrual pain




Build immune system

Poppy plant products




Poppy plant products





II.5. Source of Psychoactive Plant Products

India signed the single convention 1961 which required it to put in place mechanisms for the control of use and trade in psychoactive substances that altered consciousness, thereby it had to gradually reduce the number of legal outlets for bhang, ganja, charas and opium meant for socio-cultural and medicinal use (Chopra et. al. 1990; Charles 2004)


With the present refusal of the government to address the issues concerning health care through traditional systems of medicines and the enforcement of legislation banning certain psychoactive plants and animal products there has been a change in the practice of traditional system of medicine.


An institutionally trained practitioner of traditional medicine said, The regulations of the state slowly reduced the options available for medical care by non-institutionally and institutionally trained practitioners and this is changing traditional health care.


Among the medicinal preparations sold in pharmacies of traditional medicine organised on modern lines one can see preparations that are a mixture of legally approved herbs and derivate products.


Even the use of pure herbs that are fast acting being sold is a trend away from the earlier traditional practice.


Interviews with informants from traditional systems of medicine indicate that a continuing reduction of legal outlets for psychoactive substances ignored the existence of a socio-cultural and medicinal need and pushed the problem underground. The consequent increase in prices adversely affected quality and made access to these substances for medicinal use difficult.


Practitioners unlike users are unwilling to visit drug dens or set up close links with criminal networks, so there is layering from the main sources. As a result of layering there are individuals willing to provide psychoactive substances at a place of convenience for a higher price.


Some informants spoke on the impact of legislation as follows `We have had to find alternative means as opium is very expensive and difficult to get without adulteration. Hence we use products made of Kaskasa, which is legal’.


 `We do not believe in providing individuals with manufactured products, we prepare substances that are appropriate to their body constitution and so in the case of psychoactive substances and of animal products we face difficulty in accessing them’.


One of the siddha practitioners, in his mid thirties, is from a family of traditional medicinal practitioners. He has undergone institutional training, in addition to being trained by his father who is also a siddha practitioner. He said The problem arises as sidha practitioners prepare medicine based on the need of the patient and their requirement is immediate. It is then that they try to obtain various substances and as they are not willing to establish direct links with the illegal sources for obtaining psychoactive substances, the process becomes difficult.


Their source for psychoactive substances is at times not contactable in an emergency and even if contacted the substance may be adulterated. This has led to use of alternate substances, including the use of alternative opium. This option is preferred as original opium costs Rs.15,000 per Kg and alternate opium can be bought for Rs.1000 per Kilogram. Unlike this in the case of cannabis, criminalisation has only affected the quality to some extent and the fluctuation in price is minimal.


Artificial opium is prepared using different ingredients and the process takes six months. The ingredients used are Neem oil, palm sugar, juice of nutmeg and Khasakhasi[50] in large quantity. To this mustard oil is added and then kept in pot that is subsequently sealed air tight. A pit is made in the ground and it is covered with cow dung, charcoal and paddy hay, and into this pit the pot is placed and buried. The pot is kept underground for a period of six months and then removed to obtain artificial opium. It is this artificial opium that is also being used by traditional practitioners but the result is not very perfect and this affects treatment.


In addition to the hazards of procuring substances for treatment there is also the threat of corrupt officials and fear of being considered a criminal for no reason. Besides, unlike in Central and Northern States that are close to licit cultivating States (Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan), access to opium in Southern part of India is far less. Diversion from licit cultivation areas (Charles 2004) has been indicated and it caters to part of the demand from the southern parts of the country along with produce from illicit cultivating areas.


Unless the government makes provision to address the concerns of traditional practitioners both in terms of recognition of their service and access to medicinal herbs, the traditional health care wisdom may disintegrate. It may also lead to the use of synthetic products in place of natural products. A trained siddha practitioner stated In an emergency to deal with certain ailments a few of the non-institutionally trained traditional practitioners are using synthetic opiates, though this is not common. This shift seems natural and it can lead to more complications and change the practice of traditional system of medicine. 


III. Conclusion

Culturally embedded use of psychoactive plant products have existed and continues to exist in parts of India. Their non-psychoactive use was for nutritional value and provided environment friendly, self sufficient options for local people to deal with local needs. This along with use of these products in Indian cuisine made it difficult to hold a unilateral negative perception of psychoactive plant products. Besides, culture also provided scope for the use of psychoactive plant products for social reasons and as a relaxant or for its mind altering capacity. Socio- cultural sanctions for consumption of traditional drugs does not leave room for negativism attached to these substances by the punitive approach to drug abuse management. In India, intake of different psychoactive plant products occurred during social functions and get together which emphasised strengthening of group identity, as seen in case of opium by Rajputs or cannabis in Puri. Consumption of cannabis during Holi, Shivaratri and Bhagoriah also created occasions to strengthen group intervention in a culturally appropriate manner. This acceptance does not offer scope for a discriminatory reaction towards drug users.


The use of traditional medicines containing datura, cannabis and poppy plant products in dealing with common ailments strengthened the cultural base for these substances. A criminalisation of these products without considering the cultural reality made it difficult to continue with cultural use because of difficulty in accessing these substances. The process of criminalisation has not eradicated cultural use, but has led to a creation of indirect links between criminal networks and those who use traditional substances for cultural reasons. In certain instances it has led to individuals identifying processes whereby the available psychoactive substance can be processed to get maximum effect and also to a replacement of the use of traditional substances by their more potent derivative chemicals. The present drug policy has disturbed the practice of traditional systems of medicine this is distressing as they are the only source of care for a large percentage of the Indian population in rural areas. 











Chapter 5


Impact of Criminalisation on Drug Use and Trade



International drug policy affected the national approach that till then largely depended on the local socio-cultural reality to evolve drug use management strategies. It led to the adoption of a criminal approach to drug control, which put in place legislative measures that facilitated the enforcement of the new drug policy. To understand the impact of criminalisation, the issues focussed upon here are the creation of new norms, the implication of changes in legislation on religious use, the socio-cultural context of consumption, the drug trade situation, the marginalisation of drug users and introduction to new drugs, the strengthening of links between criminal network and drug use. The impact of criminalisation on the scope for drug use, trade and drug abuse management programmes is further elaborated upon.


I. Creation of New Norms through Criminalisation

Prior to the introduction of the NDPS Act (1985) the control over psychoactive substances was enforced through Central and State enactments. The main legislations in place were the Opium Act 1857, the Opium Act 1878 and Dangerous Drugs Act 1930; the emphasis of these legislations was to gain control over trade as it was a source of excise.


Under the British, trade in opium with China was crucial and between 1716 and 1759 Britain paid China 268,333,614 pounds sterling in silver and gold for tea, and only 9,248,306 pounds in goods. The British experimented with various commodities to balance the trade from ginseng to seal skins. Unable to break the Chinese resistance to a more balanced trade agreement, the British trader and smuggler Jardine attacked the Chinese navy and started the opium wars, which led to the opening up of opium trade with China (Charles et. al. 1999, Husain et. al. 1983; Chopra et. al. 1990) and the accession of Hong Kong.


Later, the changed international scenario brought revisions in the opium trade situation, but within the country the focus of British continued to be on the collection of excise from the trade in opium and cannabis and to restrict the otherwise illicit transaction of cannabis and opium. The Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930 also emphasised on the same.


After independence in 1945, India became a signatory to the Single Convention in 1961; there was no attempt to change the legislation controlling trade or use of psychoactive substances. As per the Single Convention, India was granted a grace period of 25 years to eradicate cultural forms of use; and thereby when the NDPS Act was enacted, cultural forms of use management would have become irrelevant.  It would have been naive for the government to assume that a change in cultural links that existed for centuries could be brought about in a two decades. As a result the government did nothing about it, except to state that bhang would be legal for cultural reasons. Consumption of all other forms of cannabis and opium products were clubbed together with hard drugs and termed as narcotic drugs. This ignored the extensive culturally sanctioned use of cannabis products and the poppy plant.


Even in the case of bhang consumption there existed a contradiction for cannabis cultivation was made illegal, unlike the poppy plant legally cultivated in three states, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh; for medicinal reasons under license issued by the central government. As cannabis cultivation in itself was illegal there was no legal source for bhang and wild growth of cannabis and systematic illegal cultivation continued in many parts of India to meet the cultural needs (Charles (a) 2001; Charles 2004).


Consumption of cannabis and opium products continued to be controlled by non-formal norms that evolved based on the socio-cultural reality of the region. Against this background when the NDPS Act, 1985 was enacted and enforced it ignored the cultural use management that existed earlier and the sources for these substances were made illegal. To understand the process in which legislation affected cultural forms of use, relevant aspects of NDPS Act, 1985 are dealt with here in detail.


I.1. Social Constructs under NDPS Act

The translation of the new drug policy into reality depended on the NDPS Act and its capacity to contradict or change the existing social constructs related to drug use under religious, social and cultural realm. This required the creation of new definitions about drug, drug use and drug trade.


I.1.1. Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances

The terms narcotics and psychotropic substances were meant to gain control the over use and trade in various substances by placing them under the purview of the law. The category narcotic drugs under the NDPS Act means cocoa leaf cannabis (hemp)[51]  opium[52] poppy straw[53] and all manufactured drugs[54]. The law also included the substances acetophene, di-acetyl-morphine (heroin),   dihydrodesocymorphine (Desomorphine), etorphene, ketobemi-done, and their salts, preparations, admixtures, extracts and other substances containing any of these drugs  In addition to narcotic drugs, the law added the category, psychotropic substances, which included any natural or synthetic material or salt preparation of substances or material included in the list which under the law in the 1990s consisted of 77 substances.


These terms are in total contradiction to what soma or cannabis means for saivite samnyasis or to the sanction given to cannabis and opium use within the cultural context. The creation of new terms affected consumption, sharing of substances, the practice of giving prasad to saivite smanyasis by the devotees; for all of these acts suddenly became criminal acts.


I.1.2. Drug use

Consumption of any substance mentioned under the NDPS Act is a crime and user can be imprisoned and fined based on the substance consumed. The punishment for consumption, according to the legislation is:


·         Where, the narcotic drug or psychotropic substances consumed is cocaine, morphine, diacetylmorphine or any other narcotic drug or any other psychotropic substance specified by the Central Government or by notification in the official Gazette, the punishment is rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees or with both, and

·         where, the narcotic drug or psychotropic substance consumed is other than those specified in or under clause (a) the punishment  imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both. (NDPS Act, 1985).


By criminalising consumption and ensuring rigorous imprisonment for possession of drugs within the minimum quantity or above, the NDPS Act ensured that all forms of use were criminalised including traditional forms of use other than medicinal use for which provisions were made but systematically reduced.


The only option for avoiding harsh punishment under NDPS Act is to never have the drug in one’s possession, for under such circumstances other than during the act of consumption, the burden of obtaining proof of consumption was up to the prosecution. This was difficult except when consumption occurred in traditional settings where the drug is provided to the participant as part of group consumption. With the classification of the drug as contraband, the legislation inadvertently made it a profitable substance of trade. Access to the drug being difficult and a consequent increase in price ensured that the free sharing of drugs became a lost practice.


I.1.3. Drug Possession

Possession of the drug whether for personal consumption or otherwise is a crime and leads to imprisonment. Till 2002, there was no differentiation made on basis of the quantity seized and it led to users serving long period of time behind bars, just as long as those arrested for trade. As per the law, any person caught with heroin weighing 250 milligram or above was liable to imprisonment for ten years or more, the quantity specified for other substances were: charas/hashish 5gms, ganja 500gms, opium 5gms and cocaine 125mgs (Britto 1989; Charles et. al. 1999).


The enforcement of the law became complicated in the absence of differentiation based on the quantity seized and the delay in the judicial process, which led to individuals spending years behind bar as undertrials (Charles et. al. 1999; Anuradha, 2001).  Against this background, there were demands from social scientists for a differentiation to be made between traditional forms of drugs and other drugs; which led to an amendment of the NDPS Act (1985) in 2002.


As per a study[55] done in Tihar Jail, out of the 1910 individuals interviewed around 17% of them were arrested under Section 27 of the NDPS Act. The particular section applies to those caught in possession of small quantities of drugs meant for personal consumption. As per the provision under the Act those convicted under this section could opt for treatment instead of serving a sentence, but this was rarely used (Setthi 2002). This made the Association for Scientific Research on Addiction to appeal to the National Human Rights Commission to allow individuals accused under Section 27 of the NDPS Act to be also given the option of seeking treatment outside the prison setting.


The legislation created two broad classifications, small and commercial quantity, with quantity varying based on the substance seized. As per the new amendment punishment is to be determined based on whether the quantity seized fall under small or commercial quantity classification. This is given in Table No:2.


The punishment for contraventions in relation to the possession or trade in poppy straw, coca plant/coca leaves, opium poppy, opium, cannabis plant and cannabis, manufactured drug and preparation and psychotropic substances according to NDPS Act is as follows:


·         when the contravention involves small quantity, punishment is rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both.

·         where the contravention involves quantity, lesser than commercial quantity but greater than small quantity the punishment is rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.

·         where the contravention involves commercial quantity, punishment is rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to twenty years and shall be liable to fine which shall not be less than one lakh[56] rupees but may extend to two lakh rupees.


Table No: 2

Punishment under NDPS Act based on Quantity Seized

Name of the drug

Chemical name

Small Quantity

(in gms)

Commercial Quantity (in gm/Kg)

Cannabis and cannabis resin

Extracts and tinctures of cannabis





1 kg   






Any preparation containing opium


 2.5 kg.

Opium derivatives


(other than heroin, morphine and those listed herein



Poppy straw










































Coca derivatives

(Excluding cocaine) and its salts



Coca leaf












        ( The NDPS Act,  2003: 7-21)



I.1.4. Illicit Traffic

The term illicit traffic includes the following activities:

·         cultivating any coca plant or gathering any portion of the coca plant/

·          cultivating the opium poppy plant or any cannabis plant

·         engaging in the production[57], manufacture[58], possession, sale, purchase, transportation, ware-housing, concealment, use[59] or consumption, import inter-state, export inter-state, import into India, export from India or  transhipment of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.

·         dealing in any activities in narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances ,other than those referred to in sub clauses.

·         handing or letting out any premises for the carrying on of any activities referred to here.


Other than these, the activities that are punishable are financing, directly or indirectly, any of the aforementioned activities; abetting or conspiring in the furtherance of or in support of doing any of the aforementioned activities and harbouring of persons engaged in any of the aforementioned activities.


II. Transferring the criminal approach to society

An introduction of new social constructs with regard to drug use and trade was undertaken through the national drug abuse management programme. It involved counselling, detoxification, rehabilitation, prevention and out- reach programmes. The interventions undertaken in the varied areas focussed on the disease model and strengthened the tendency to club all psychoactive substances under the category drug. When institutional care is offered to drug users, there is no differentiation made on the basis of the substance used.


The basic focus of prevention programmes was to communicate the dangers related to drug use, for which drug use was linked to death and one time drug use to addiction. Posters clubbed all forms of psychoactive substances under one category- drug. The images used to evoke danger included that of snakes, skull, chains and coffin[60] among others, the images skull and snake are interesting for they form symbols that represent an ascetic as well. 


The irrelevance of such posters in initiating change among users has been pointed out a study on heroin consumption (Charles, et. al. 1999). The criticism of these prevention programmes, and research findings in other countries that indicated the limitations of the programme, did bring change and later messages began to focus on making positive choices (participating in sports, art or other forms of entertainment) and saying `no’ to drugs. At the same time contradictions between the cultural forms of use and puritan approach to drug abuse control continued to persist.


For transferring the disease model of drug abuse management at present the government presently has a national infrastructure in place, the National Centre for Drug Abuse Prevention. Under the Community Wide Demand Reduction approach it has brought out many publications with the support of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and United National International Drug Control Programme, Regional Office for South Asia. These publications are used as training manuals for transferring the specific knowledge base to agencies working in the field of drug abuse management.  At present there are 361 NGOs, 68 counselling centres, 376 de-addiction centres in the country and they form the base through which such knowledge is transferred. As the drug programmes are actively undertaken with support of concerned United Nations agency, they do have a role to play in the basic approach to drug abuse management. It has been pointed out by exploring the countries that fund United Nations and influence of various countries on United Nations intervention strategies, that United States has a major role in determining the basic foundation of interventions to be undertaken by United Nation agency directly or other wise  (Drucker 2003; Fazey 2003). It is this that has facilitated the spread of punitive approach to drug abuse management to other countries, including India.


Analysis of the programmes and organisational philosophy of national level drug agencies[61] shows that their interventions raise certain concerns.


·         They ignore the socio-cultural reality of India


The focus is to ignore the cultural base for controlled use of cannabis or opium and to club all drugs as capable of creating addiction. This is done by specifying that ganja like brown sugar has no medicinal value, and therefore any form of use is abuse. With regard to action to be taken to control drug use, it is clearly mentioned that there is a need to focus on initiation to cannabis (Kumar 2002). It ignores the use of cannabis in traditional systems of medicine and the socio-cultural sanction for cannabis and opium.


·         It ignores the limited scope given for culture within legislative measures put in place to control drug use and trade in the country.


Though India has put in place a criminal policy for drug control, the NDPS Act makes a clear distinction in the case of bhang and accepts its cultural role and this is not indicated in the training material brought out by National Centre for Drug Abuse Prevention. Such blatant contradiction between the resource material and socio-cultural reality of the country raises queries about the relevance of these approaches and their purpose. Cannabis has been used in the country for centuries without ever becoming a major issue of concern as there have been non-formal norms in place to control excessive use. Instead of strengthening the regulatory mechanisms of culture, national level training material ignore it.


·         It emphasises on the disease model of intervention as being the only solution for drug control in the country and abstinence from all substances the ultimate goal.


According to Ranganathan (2002:3) when a drug is taken for reasons other than medical,  in any amount, strength, frequency or manner that causes damage to the physical or mental functioning of an individual, it becomes drug abuse.  It further elaborates that drug abuse leads to drug addiction with development of tolerance and dependence.


In defining drug abuse the resource material does focus on the relevance of the adverse impact of the substance on the user and later the manual elaborates on stages of addiction that occur in the lives of all users of different types of drugs, including alcohol; thereby indicating a uniformity in impact in drug use of any kind. The section on stages of addiction ends with the conclusion that, as with other diseases the possibility of recovery is greater if intervention is initiated at the early stage. Thereby the focus remains that all forms of drug use in the end lead to addiction and even alcohol and tobacco are to be avoided as they are gateway drugs.


The concept of gateway drugs has been disputed for years and discarded as research did not substantiate the use of alcohol or cannabis as leading to the use of hard drugs in all instances. The socio-cultural reality of India  questions the rationality of such assumptions, for if it is true that cannabis is a gateway drug, then there need to be more hard drug users in India, than is seen from available data, especially in rural India where cannabis continues to be used extensively. In Himachal Pradesh it is largely restricted to cannabis and opium (Charles (b) 2001). This has also been indicated by data collected from 67 individuals seeking help for drug use. The main substances of use were alcohol, cannabis and opium. Besides, the national level data collected from drug treatment centres indicate that cannabis use was far more frequently reported by respondents from a rural background unlike heroin use from urban areas (Siddiqui 2002). A study on drug trade indicates that the use of traditional drugs is far more common than derivative drugs in rural India, except in certain instances, in areas close to licit poppy cultivation (Charles 2004).


The role of culture in restricting drug consumption or the choice of the drug is an important issue.  It has been indicated that the cultural use of cannabis in Costa Rica restricted social problems that arise from alcohol which is evident from a cannabis free island nearby (Herer 1991).


The existing approach under drug abuse management also refuses to acknowledge the presence of harm minimisation methods that exist in the cultural context. Opium is used in the cultural setting in different forms and based on local reality cultural mechanisms have evolved to deal with excessive use. One of the methods to deal with excessive use of madak (a form of opium) has been to consume doda pani as a substitute. Doda Pani is a drink made of powdered poppy pods, the pods are soaked in water for ten hours and then filtered. The opium user takes doda pani in a regulated manner and slowly weans himself off from doda pani as well (Charles et. al. 1999).


This method of substitution is also used by brown sugar users, but there is hardly any receptiveness for this among professionals. Ravi, is in his early forties, and has been using brown sugar for years. His wife works in one of the gulf countries and their marital life has been discordant because of his drug use.


Ravi spoke about his drug use I used to take opium prior to shifting to brown sugar as there was difficulty in getting opium as compared to the availability of brown sugar. Use of brown sugar totally disrupted my life and I reached the streets, and became a casual labourer. My wife who works abroad refused to give me money because of my drug consumption.


It is during this stage in my life that I met an old friend with whom I used to consume opium. He was taken aback to see my condition and asked me to take doda pani instead of brown sugar. He said this would help me to become functional.


With doda pani I found it easy to deal with brown sugar withdrawals. I used to take it in the morning and night. Slowly I was able to stand on my feet and got a regular job at a ration shop. This improved my relationship with my wife and when she came back for holidays she was happy to see the change.


During this period I continued to have doda pani without her knowledge, this was difficult. One day she saw me soaking the doda and asked me about it. Then I explained to her what happened. She was very upset and insisted that I go for treatment and stop taking doda pani.


Upon enrolling for treatment the doctor and other staff oriented me to their programme. They said all forms of drugs are harmful and abstinence is the only way. I realised doda pani is as harmful as brown sugar and so decided never to use it again.


After the treatment I was clean for six months and then relapsed I did try to shift to doda pani but the police had raided the place and my source for doda pani was disrupted. Then I went back to brown sugar use, soon I was unable to deal with my drug expenses. I requested my wife or rather convinced her that I would become drug free after undergoing treatment.


This illustrates how treatment centres and professionals hamper the possibility of utilising a culturally viable option for controlling drug use. Use of opium by drug users to deal with addiction has been indicated by other users. As there are a few unbiased studies on cultural use of drugs, it is easy for professionals to adapt the western approach and there are innumerable books and articles propagating the same.


Thus, the drug abuse management programme translated, more stringently, the goals of the drug policy through different interventions which affected various aspects of drug use and trade. To understand the affect of these interventions, the impact of legislative measures and drug abuse management on religious, socio-cultural forms of use is elaborated upon. Here, the focus is on the counter transfer from society on cultural forms of consumption.


III. Religious Use and Criminalisation

In India, cannabis plant products have a strong association to the religious context and prior to the implementation of the NDPS Act, 1985, there were legal provisions made for the cultivation or collection of cannabis products from wild growth and its distribution to different parts of the country.


In the nineteen fifties there were licenses issued in Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh which facilitated the collection of bhang and its transportation the process was carefully controlled. State wise figures for consumption of bhang in 1956-1957, show that the highest consumption was in Uttar Pradesh with 136 tonnes and the next Rajasthan with 85 tonnes. In the case of ganja the amount consumed in the same year was the highest for Bihar, 32 tonnes (Chopra et. al. 1990). After the implementation of the NDPS Act, there were systematic efforts to reduce the area under cultivation and the government outlets for sale of cannabis and opium products (Husain et. al. 1983; Chopra et. al. 1990). At the same time cultural sanction for the use of cannabis and opium products continued this need being met by collection of produce from the wild growth of cannabis plants or through illegal cultivation.


Cannabis grows wild or is cultivated illegally in many parts of India, which  include the states of Himachal Pradesh (Charles (a), 2001), Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Manipur, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Jarkhand, Uttaranchal, Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir (Britto 1989; Chopra et. al. 1999). Implementation of legislation against cannabis cultivation and sale of its products other than for medicinal purposes affected all forms of cultural use, including religious.


Substance use among ascetics has been isolated from substance use in society because of their lifestyle and as a result the impact of legislation on drug use among samnyasis has been limited. At the same time the samnyasis community has not been immune to the change, for they are dependent on society for their cannabis products, though at times they do grow some plants for their own consumption.


A saivite samnyasi from Udasin sect who lives in the Gir forest has a small ashram, which consists of a mandir at the centre, with rooms on both sides where devotees are able to stay overnight. He provides herbal health care to patients who visit him they receive information on his skills from his devotees. During the researcher’s visit to his ashram, in the evening, devotees came to meet the samnyasi and all of them brought ganja as prasad for him. Later, the samnyasi said I have been growing some plants close by for personnel consumption but then a few days ago some of the villagers plucked leaves and flowers from the plants. I got very angry and burnt the entire cultivation. For the plants were meant for samnyasis and not for worldly people.


After the incident I was not sure from where I would get ganja for my personal consumption, but as my devotees heard of the incident they have been bringing me prasad.


I do share a chillum with my devotees when they bring me prasad, but regular consumption is not meant for them


Another samnyasi from Das Nami Akhada, who joined the samnyasis in his teens, was introduced to ganja consumption by his Guru. Since then he has been smoking ganja daily for the last forty years. He spoke on the criminalisation of drug use and trade Devotees bring cannabis as prasad for use. The police do not harass the samnyasis, but our devotees have more trouble getting good quality ganja. According to them the price has increased and they have to be careful as police can arrest them. The quality of the substances brought by our devotees has deteriorated drastically.


Field observation showed that other than devotees, drug dealers also maintain a close touch with samnyasis. Prior to major religious celebrations of saivite samnyasi community, the samnyasis visit the devotees who give them large quantities of cannabis. The ascetic has no idea about their devotee’s profession, besides they do not respect the approach of illegality being imposed upon cannabis by the government. This form of interaction has its impact on the samnyasi community, for the dealers see no difference in drugs and would be interested in marketing hard drugs as well


III.1. Counter transference from Society to Samnyasis 

Mumbai city and it’s urbanised, fast lifestyle is in stark contrast to the rural remote areas where ascetics are held in revere. Here, the rush is towards a worldly life and there is no space to treat samnyasis differently. The behaviour becomes clear when dealers selling to users who stand in a queue to purchase brown sugar have samnyasis join the queue, the elite users who come and purchase their substance from their vehicle are given more respect.


A Naga smanyasin from Niranjani Akhada spoke about his life in Mumbai city and introduction to brown sugar. His childhood was spent in the city with his parents. One day on his way to school he met his guru and that moment he decided to be a samnyasi and just followed him to his ashram. He stayed with his guru at the ashram in the suburban area close to the sea. After his guru passed away, the place and the position was handed over to him as decided by his guru.


When he joined the ashram twenty years ago the area surrounding the ashram, was vacant. Through the years the nearby places have all been taken over by sky scrapers. Many builders contacted him to sell the land surrounding the temple and tried to threaten him to sell the land at a cheap rate. He was not the least interested, for he enjoyed his walk along the sea shore and did not want to sell it for any amount. He then spoke about city life and his drug use.


`In recent times things have changed in the city and it is difficult to practice all the rituals of being a samnyasi. I can no longer make a dhuni at the ashram as the people ridicule this practice. Samnyasi can no longer apply ash on their body and walk around for people grumble that their clothes get spoilt’.


He recounted another incident to illustrate the difficulties faced by samnyasis Once we were walking along the road. One samnyasi had taken a vow to keep his right hand raised, as part of his tapas. A drunkard saw this samnyasi and said Why are you walking with you hand raised, keep it down? The drunkard kept pulling his hand down. We do not say anything,   for it is Mumbai and this is Kaliyuga[62]. Besides, if we say anything people tell us; `You are samnyasi, you should know better


The samnyasi elaborated on drug use and changes that occurred:


I have been taking ganja for years, in a group I consume around 25 chillums a day, but alone it is only 5 chillums a day. I began using brown sugar in 1997. It was given to me in a cigarette by a user, who said that it was a different nasha (high) and that I should try it. I used it with him and vomited once or twice. I continued to use it for four days and then discontinued for a few days.


After a few days I went to meet the person who had given me the barella cigarette, I saw him preparing a chillum and then sprinkling white powder on top of charas. Then we both smoked the chillum. After that I continued to use brown sugar. Gradually, I began to use around 12 pudis[63] a day.


This drug is very dirty and difficult to give up. One is never satisfied. I had given it up for some months and then began to use it again. To be physically away from brown sugar is easy, but one is mentally thinking of it. To leave the drug is to be close to it, watching others use it and still not consuming the drug.


As pointed out by him the counter transference is not limited to a few samnyasis for when the source for ganja is linked to the illegal market it is natural that dealers would try to introduce other drugs which offers a larger profit margin and as the samnyasis have to buy the drug and there is scope for business. This is evident when he described his introduction to smoking brown sugar in pani[64]. I was introduced to use brown sugar in pani at Hardwar Khumbhamela[65]. Other samnyasis who use brown sugar in pani taught me.


The presence of brown sugar use among samnyasi community has also been indicated by field observation at dealing areas, where samnyasis rush to buy their drug and leave the place in a hurry.  As they wear their samnyasis attire it is easy to identify them.


III.2. Changes in consumption at Lord Siva’s Temple

Near the temples of Lord Siva in Himachal Pradesh there are tourists more interested in using the cannabis chillum than understanding nuances of Hindu philosophy or the role of cannabis in religion, whether within or outside the samnyasis community.  On a visit to a temple after obtaining permission to interact with samnyasis, the first encounter was with a dealer who wanted to make a sale.  Later another visitor to the site bought charas and gave it as prasad to the samnyasis.


In another locality, the temple was reached through the winding lanes behind the market stalls. The road on the way to the temple was dirty where workers had carelessly spilt garbage. The ground surrounding the small temple was neat and clean and as it was after Shivratri there was hardly anybody around. To the left of the temple, at a lower level lay the cremation ground, where aghori samnyasis sat smoking chillum.


This is not the situation during Shivaratri, a few days prior to the event the place gets filled by samnyasis and their disciples who do not come for the darshan but are around, for days, smoking chillums and drinking bhang. Many of these devotees are foreigners and their consumption of cannabis (through the chillum or as bhang) is neither symbolic or as prasad.  The place is filled with cannabis fumes and people are seen under different stages of nasha. The religious sanctity of the place has been disturbed is what the temple priest had to say about the Shivaratri celebrations.


IV. Socio-cultural use and Criminalisation

Changes in the traditional forms of use are not limited to the religious context, but occur in social and other forms of use as well. This is seen from the manner in which opium consumption in the form of Kasumba pani has become a closed door affair and no longer done as a way of displaying the host’s social status or power (Masihi et. al. 1994). 


In addition to the changed role of traditional substance at times new substances replace earlier ones. Replacement of opium and cannabis by alcohol in Gujarat is indicated from the large percentage of alcoholics seeking treatment at detoxification centres for drug abuse management. Data from 237 users who came to two treatment centres indicate that 59.5% used alcohol, 7.7% heroin and used cannabis (Siddiqui 2002).


This shift was also noted in our field study.  Mr. M, a Rajput aged 60, who lives with his family in Gujarat consisting of wife, children and grand children, said: I have been using opium for decades without any problem. With the criminalisation of opium use, the substance has become difficult to procure. At the same time, in spite of prohibition, cheap alcohol is easily available. Now, I need to drink liquor daily and experience has taught me that alcohol is far more harmful for my health than opium. Being old I find it difficult to deal with the health problems created by alcohol use.


The changes that occurred in opium use in Gujarat are reflected in the case of Rajasthan as well, though a shift was seen towards the use of synthetic drugs such as heroin. Data from 477 drug users who approached five treatment centres indicated that 30.5% are heroin users, 39.8% opium users and 19.5 alcohol users (Siddiqui 2002)


Cultural use of cannabis did also undergo changes, as per data available from the fifties the use of cannabis was extensive in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Mumbai, Orissa and Kerala.  Cultivation of cannabis was undertaken in Bihar, Hyderabad, Madhya Pradesh, Mysore, Manipur, Orissa and West Bengal. Unlike culture determining cultivation, in the use and trade of psychoactive substances, the present focus is to expand it as a lucrative business.


        The use of cannabis and opium has cultural sanction in Uttar Pradesh, there is also the licit cultivation of the poppy plant for medicinal purposes in parts of the State. With regulation on the opium trade there has been increase in diversion from licit cultivation and there are instances of heroin processing units being dismantled (Charles 2004) for trade in heroin is far more lucrative than opium.


Interviews and field observation shows that cannabis cultivation, trade and use is significant in Himachal Pradesh, through the traditional religious practice is based on tribal gods, and Lord Siva is not one among them. The acceptance given to cannabis is not in the religious sense as is evident from the presence of cafes to smoke the drug. In the cultural context of use, cannabis consumption occurred in places close to the temple or in the open spaces in the locality. Though cannabis trade is noted here, there is a minimal use of hard drugs and it is community action that has restricted the trade and use to cannabis or opium (Charles (b) 2001).


IV.1.Use in Cafes

Cafes on the hills offer the pleasure of scenic beauty as customers sip their ‘chai’ or coffee. The silence is broken, only by the chirping of birds and the rare vehicle that passes by. One such café had many a lone Western tourist or couples and friends from within and outside the country.


The one thing they seemed to have in common was the fact that all of them were enjoying the pleasures that Himachal charas or malana cream had to offer. None of them quite fitted in with the stereotype image held of the drug addict. There were no dysfunctional personalities with unkempt appearance to be found among them, as so often portrayed by the media. Though joints were at time openly rolled or filled, the strong smell of charas pervaded the room. 


Interestingly enough this was the place that the researcher met up with a new recruit to the naga samnyasis community. In his words `My family had been going through a financial crisis when a samnyasi came and said that he was willing to help us get over the crisis, provided I became a samnyasi... To help my family I joined the samnyasi community last year, when I was seventeen. I did think the samnyasi wanted me to join the samnyasi community because I am from the upper caste. Now I will go to different places in India for the next some years. This is what I have been asked to do, for survival I either beg for food or take whatever is offered to me[66]’.


As he sat there with the danda (staff) in his hand along with a small bowl for collecting alms, the café worker came and gave him some tea to drink. He was also offered a cigarette filled with charas by one of the people at the cafe. These cafes do act as outlets for cannabis distribution and along with his/her order the client can place an order for small quantities of charas.


V. Impact of Criminalisation on drug trade in the Urban Context

The enforcement of legislative measures to control drug use in urban Mumbai brought about changes in drug use and trade situation. The drug trade and use context offers a stark contrast to use within the cultural context be it in the dynamics of drug trade areas, the setting for use, pattern of use, marginalisation of users, links between users and criminal activities and the nature of intervention programmes.


V.1. Drug trade and Changed Social Context

Initially in the early eighties there were places like ‘Chandhu Khannas’ (opium dens) where users of cannabis and opium could purchase the substance and consume it in a group (Charles et. al. 1999). With the introduction of heroin in these places and attempts by the police to control the trade, the presence of corruption in enforcement agencies led to a spread of dealers in heroin for it had a larger profit margin. Dealers in cannabis because of its criminalisation began to either market hard drugs or discontinued the trade and as a result created scope for others to enter the trade (Charles et. al. 1999; Charles et. al. 2002).


An informant Vivek, aged 40, explained the circumstance that led him to start trading in drugs. He discontinued his education after his father passed away, the situation became unbearable when his mother began a new relationship. To deal with the situation he began to spend time with his friends and for survival did odd jobs at the godown in the port area. Slowly he began to take part in smuggling activities but later as the activity became unviable he had to look for other options.


When it is a lean period at the docks, I met a friend Ramesh, who earlier worked in the docks with me. He was loaded with money and I came to know from a common friend that Ramesh dealt with a white powder called gard. Then I decided to renew my friendship with Ramesh.


At first to learn about the trade I went with Ramesh to the place he purchased his stuff.  During this period I also came in contact with drug users who explained the drug to me. Then one day, I went to Ramesh’s regular contact and used his name to purchase my first consignment of drugs.


After getting the drug, I did not know what to do with it; my drug using friends said they would help me set up the business in return for the drug. They made me sit in a corner and they sent users to purchase the drug. Prior to selling the drug, they taught me to make pudis and they tested the drug for quality.


I was able to expand the business as I established contact with African nationals who dealt in better quality stuff.  This increased my clientele. By ensuring that I kept the law enforcement on my side, I was able to shut down the business of others, including that of Ramesh.


Another informant also spoke about his friend who began to trade in brown sugar, “I know a person who smokes brown sugar and sells it as well. He began to use brown sugar after his father passed away. His father sold ganja and supported the family after his father’s death the situation at his home changed. My friend lost his financial support and began to use brown sugar. When his consumption increased his wife began to sell brown sugar to support his habit and take care of family expenses.”


“Often he spent time smoking or watching television. The stuff is given to customers and the money is collected by his wife or kids. When I went to buy brown sugar, his kids handed me the drug. It is only when no one is there at home that he collects the money and gives the stuff. The timing of business is from 6 am to 10pm”.


The changed circumstance through criminalisation of drugs created scope for other activities in addition to handling the drug trade as it became far more organised and the number of individuals involved in the business increased.


V.2. Drug dealing pockets

From the 1980’s different drug dealing spots came up in Mumbai and its suburban areas. Through the years the main change that occurred has been in number of drug dens in a location and the extent of business.


Initially, in one location there were many competitors selling drugs, this changed and there emerged one or two main dealers in many of the locations. Fluctuation in the extent of drug trade in different localities has been indicated by another study in Mumbai as well (Charles et. al. 2002). This change is seen in many of the areas where drugs are sold; these locations lie along the main railway routes of Mumbai and its suburbs. Some of them are Victoria Terminus, Masjid, Rey Raod, Koliwada, Chembur, Kurla, Chunabati, Andheri, Jogeshwari, Malad, Goregaon and Borivali.


Mumbai, the capital city of Maharshtra State has 33 districts, a total population of 96,752,247 the urban population comprises of around 42.40% of the total. When considering the population of Mumbai and the number of drug users in Mumbai when estimated at the rate of .3% or .6% of male population below sixty years, works out to around 61,534 or 1,23,068 users.  From this estimation of quantity of consumption per day in the city it would range between 60Kgs to 123Kgs per day. This calculation considers the per day consumption of a brown sugar user to be around 1-2gms of brown sugar (Charles 2004)


In addition to the total quantity of drug needed for meeting the demand of drug users in Mumbai, the issue to be considered here is the purity of the drug marketed (Charles 2004). The purity of the heroin at the point of entry to the city is 30%. At the same time the purity level of heroin sold in the streets in Mumbai is around 3%, this affects the quantum of drug needed daily and profit margin per kilogram.


On considering purity, the quantum of daily drug trade is brought down to range between 6Kgs to 12Kgs. This difference in purity affects the profit margin of sale at the street level an important issue to consider when addressing the control of the drug trade.


A kilogram of heroin is bought at Rs.1,80,000 to Rs.2,00,000, and when sold in smaller quantities the money made is around Rs.12,00,000 to Rs.20,00,000. This calculation is based on the sale price of pudi being between Rs.30-Rs.50. Thus through the sale of pudis made from 6Kgs to 12Kgs heroin (at 30% purity), the profit would be around Rs.7,20,000 to Rs.1,44,00,000.


The spread of drug outlets in Mumbai may have occurred because of the large profit margin through sale of heroin or brown sugar at the street level. It has created scope for the large extent of layering that occurs through the involvement of many individuals for the same or related activities, it includes couriers, agents, subagents and assistant peddlers. Such large scale business cannot survive without support from powerful groups within and outside the system.


The drug dealing areas in addition to the sale of heroin or brown sugar began to provide other services as well. This shift has been noted through field observation and data collected from informants. A drug user said; `In addition to brown sugar other items are also sold to drug users at drug dens or in near by areas. The beedi (Indian cigarettes) shops here sell a foil for 50p and chaser for Rs.1. The foil is made of thicker material as the cigarette foil used earlier by drug users got burnt when heated with a matchstick or lit candle. At times these shops also sell nitravet[67] at Rs.2 per tablet, they also sell other tablets”.


To elaborate further on the drug dealing area one location is described below:


·        Profile of an established drug dealing network

This site has evolved as an important trade outlet in the last five years not only for drug users but also for other small time dealers from other parts of Mumbai.  As a result of new links being set up with law enforcers and the community, a family of three siblings has become the main dealer in the area with a small part of the business being shared by another female peddler. Though the dealers or their assistants have been placed under arrest for a year or two, the business carries on under the supervision of one of the family members or a manager.


To cater to the different needs of users there emerged different pockets that act as nodes carrying out specified activities in an organised manner. The growth of new economic activities is evident from the group of workers, male and female actively involved in preparing foils and chasers. While a person sorts out foil papers to be cut, others close by prepare chasers or sort out different chasers for sale. The presence of men, women and children reflect the acceptances of these activities. The only shadow being that the location is under a bridge, away from the prying eyes of the public.


A study on the drug trade in Mumbai (Charles et. al. 2002) had identified additional functions that provide opportunities for those seeking to make fast money, the activities include being an assistant to drug dealers, working as courier, being a watchdog for the peddler keeping the dealer informed about any threat and as packers who ensure that large lumps of brown sugar are made into fine powder and packed in butter paper and sold in the streets in as pudis[68].


Close to the location, along the wall on one side of the railway track, is the opening from where the users can cross over and purchase the drug from a female peddler who sits on a cot with her assistants who hand over the drug.  There are always watchdogs to ensure that there are no hiccups in business transactions.  Youth employed as watchdogs are found at different spots on the railway station close by and surrounding area. They are given mobile phones to ensure speedy communication and are provided with bikes to keep circling the area and doing errands in case of an emergency.


After purchasing the stuff, the user either sits for his chase on the isolated staircase connecting the top portion close to the railway station to the highway below or at another spot on an elevated land close to the unused tracks with the shrubs around offering cover from others. There is also the option of using the residence of others in the locality for a small price. These arrangements for use are similar to those in other places, except that this site caters to a larger population. On an average they have a business of around two kilograms of heroin per day according to informants.


Establishment of such sites are possible because there are others who are willing to provide the drug in large-scale to the dealers.  According to informants, earlier they had to go to other places close to cultivating areas to purchase processed stuff. The present arrangement is that the substance is delivered to them.  To ensure proper functioning of the business, community acceptance is created by meeting the financial needs of those in the locality and in case there is protest the concerned individuals are either bribed or dealt with accordingly.  With regard to law enforcement efforts, corruption in the different branches of these agencies ensures that cases are registered either to break competitors or new entrants or to meet the local political need of the hour.  While the case studies of the users claiming corruption among law enforcers can be viewed with suspicion, observation of the harassment of users by the police who turn a blind eye to trade, speaks volumes.


V.3. Pharmacies and Drug Trade

Another aspect of the drug trade that has to be considered is the sale of licit drugs for illicit purposes. This is seen in case of use of psychotropic substances by users where the outlets are pharmacies. The main substances abused are Proxyvon, Phensedyl, Buprenorphine, Diazpam, Nitrazepam, Lorazepam, amphetamine, barbiturates and Tidigesic. Though the government requires them to maintain records, this is hardly complied with.


While drug control programmes can take immediate action against drug dens that are visible, in the case of pharmacies there is a total mingling of legitimate and illegitimate activities, thereby restricting the impact of intervention efforts.  In addition to this the pharmaceutical industry is powerful which makes it difficult to bring about strict control, though an inquiry into the yearly turnover of the manufacturer and estimation of probable patients for the same products is not difficult. The bias shown toward pharmaceutical industries has been pointed out by Reinarman (2003). According to him the intention was never to prevent abuse of these products but rather to open up new market possibilities.


The excessive use of regular medicinal products like cough syrup which contain codeine (an alkaloid from opium) has been noted among drug users in Mumbai city. This pattern of use has been cited by studies undertaken in north eastern part of the country. Data from 233 drug users in three treatment centre in Mizoram, shows that 19.8% abuse cough syrup (Siddiqui 2002).


Raghu, aged 27, lives with his parents and siblings. He is a professional dancer and participates in programmes along with other artists. Their group is called to perform at different functions and also to be a part of the film industry. In addition to this he also works as a clerk on a part time basis. He spoke about his introduction to the excessive use of cough syrup.


I began to smoke cigarette with my college friends and during that period I was interested in dance and was part of a professional group. My friends and I used to spent lot of time in disco clubs.


While at a dance practice in a suburban area of Mumbai  I saw two Nepalese sitting away from others drinking Corex (cough syrup) in a small glass and having Indian sweets along with it. They took cough syrup like others drink alcohol in small pegs. I did not interact with them.


Later, I saw a friend from our locality who brought the Corex to the terrace, where we were practising dance, drink it. Seeing him take the substance I became very curious and asked him why he took it and wanted to experiment with it myself. After consuming Corex, I smoked an entire half packet of cigarettes at a stretch. Otherwise, I used to share one or two cigarettes with my friends in a day. Even in my dance I had Josh (energy). I felt that if there was a fight, I would be in the forefront, the substance made me very active. After that experience I continued taking it...


When a sweet is taken with Corex it enhances the effect. After consuming Corex, a glass of sweet tea or jeelabis are taken. I keep a Corex bottle and a glass of sweet tea next to me then I take a sip of Corex from the bottle followed by a sip of sweet tea. When I was working in the film industry this was very convenient as cigarettes and tea is provided in plenty.


VI. Criminalisation and its impact on the Urban context of Drug Use

The enforcement of the NDPS Act in Mumbai far from eradicating drug trade facilitated its growth and its entrenchment in society. Besides trading in heroin and brown sugar, the deterioration in quality of the substance provided scope for the introduction of other pharmaceutical products, including synthetic opiates. In addition to this the stigmatisation of drug users as diseased or different individuals has created a marginalisation and alienation of the drug users from society and strengthened their links with other drug users, peddling areas and criminal networks.


The criminalisation of drug use ensured that the drug users had to interact with criminal networks to obtain their drug of choice and this led them further into the criminal setting. The alienation of users ensured that the drug using population remained isolated and there was scope to introduce different types of drugs and forms of use. It is this aspect of drug abuse management that the case interviews of drug users are utilised to bring forth.


Criminalisation of drug use has led to a marginalisation of users, as is evident from field visits in Mumbai. In one of our field visits, on one side of a railway platform in broad daylight we found brown sugar users sitting huddled in a corner chasing the drug. Their torn clothes and unkempt appearance merged with the litter strewn near the garbage bin, completely lost to the world inhaling the precious fumes without letting any escape, to avoid wastage. Suddenly there were sniggers and catcalls from the passengers in a passing train. Hey, Gradulla (addict).  They did not react to the catcalls or sniggering ‘(Charles et a 1999: 98).


The study further looked at the process of marginalisation and found `the present association man has formed with Mind Altering Substances (MAS) can marginalise the user which in turn can change his life style. Marginalisation can only occur, when knowledge of consumption is available to individuals other than immediate family (Charles et. al. 1999:130).


`After the initiation process, continuation of drug use leads to changes in the lifestyles of the users in areas like- work pattern, family interaction, sexuality, personal hygiene and food consumption. Their drug use also leads to the formation of new social networks. The extent to which these become a substitute for earlier support systems also indicates the extent to which the user has deviated from society (Charles et. al. 1999 :147).


Drastic changes in the life style of the user is linked to continued excessive use of drugs, this is not seen in the cultural use of drugs. Unlike the use of traditional drugs, synthetic substance use rarely occurs in social settings, under the watchful eye of elders, who discourage excessive use. With criminalisation, the options available for users to interact on drug concerns are limited to drug users, dealers and treatment professionals within treatment centres. Acceptance is perceived to be greater within the user community and drug dealing setting it is this experience that moulds the drug use pattern and related life style. Case studies of 22 users were analysed to illustrate the role of criminalisation of drug use.


Criminalisation of drug use and the availability of harder forms of drugs in the local market have changed the factors associated with drug use management in the cultural context. This has brought about changes with regard to antecedent factors and the impact of drug use among users. The end result of this has been a shift from drug use management to drug abuse management.


Cultural restrictions ensured that the age of initiation, except in the case of cannabis within the religious context, occurred later in life. In Saurashtra, the age of initiation of the individual into opium use was 35 years for 52% of the drug users (Masihi et. al. 1994). In Rajasthan (Shrivastava 1989) individuals are initiated into opium use between 26-35 years. Whereas in the case of hard drugs initiation occurs at a very young age and among marginalised street children, it can be prior to adolescent years.  According to Siddiqui (2002) in Mizoram 37.9% of users began drug use before the age of twenty.


In order to present the changes brought about through criminalisation in pattern of use and life style of drug users, data is presented under different subsections.


VII. Criminalisation and graduation in drug use

Initiation to drug use occurs as a result of accident or as a part of conscious choice made by the individual (Charles et. al. 1999). The former can occur as a result of brown sugar being added on to the chillum of charas in an adda (drug den) or a barella’ (filled in) cigarette being given by a drug user. In the case of conscious consumption it occurs as a part of the search of the users for a better high. For which s/he may also experiment with new drugs or new modes of consumption.


Besides initiation to drugs the user is also oriented to the nuances of the effect of drugs or the withdrawal from it through other users. Alienated from the family circle and friends who are non-users, users try to strengthen their links with other users and peddlers in their network in order to deal with their sense of isolation. Depending on the extent of use and the time spent on it, the type of relationship established with marginal groups varies (Charles, et. al., 1999:151)


Interviews with users pointed out that their information with regard to drugs was received from other users or individuals in drug dealing areas. This was seen among all users interviewed for the present study.


VII.1. Introduction to New Drugs

The use of brown sugar provides scope for experimenting with other drugs, especially when the quality of brown sugar sold at the street level deteriorates. This has been pointed out by users of brown sugar. Satish, aged 29, a high school drop out lives with his mother and married brother. His younger brother is working abroad and his youngest sister is married and lives separately. His father expired three years ago because of a heart attack and his mother suffers from oral cancer.


I was told about nitravet tablets by other users. They told me that when brown sugar is of poor quality, then consumption of nitravet tablets increase the high. I have seen users who keep it in their mouth and chase brown sugar, but I just swallow it.


A study on pattern of use Bombay it was found that abuse of medicinal drugs existed along with the use of brown sugar. From a total of 1,709 brown sugar users, 658 (38.5%) use other pharmaceutical substances. Among them, nitravet was used by the maximum number of users (496), followed by valium (112) (Shetty et. al. 1996). Data from treatment centres in Nagaland and Mizoram indicate propoxyphene is the main substance of abuse. For Nagaland data from 204 drug users showed that 47.3% used propoxyphene, 16.2 % alcohol and 7.7 % heroin. In Mizoram from 233 drug users, 25.2% used porpoxyohene, 24.9% alcohol and 19.8% cough syrup (Siddiqui 2002).


VII.2. Introduction to new modes of consumption

The injecting mode of consumption started in the north eastern part of the country around two decades ago, (Britto, 1989), through the years this mode of consumption has been noted in different parts of main metropolitan states in India, Mumbai being one of them. Unlike injecting becoming a common mode of consumption in Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram; in other parts of India chasing continues to be the main mode of consumption.   Data from 620 drug users in Manipur, 233 drug users in Mizoram and 204 drug users in Nagaland; indicated that 75.5% of users in Manipur, 76% of users in Mizoram and 51% of users in Nagaland have injected drugs (Siddiqui 2002)


Users are introduced to, newer drugs or mode of consumptions in informal settings especially through sharing of information with other users in a drug using setting. This exclusive interaction limits the type of information they are exposed to and increases the possibility of indulgence in `at risk behaviour’. Injecting behaviour can be far more risky when it occurs in a sporadic manner and the user has to depend on others for the equipment. This can expose user to infections.


Ashok aged 24, has been using brown sugar for years and he chases the drug. He has his family of parents, wife and a small child.  He discontinued his education after he failed in Standard XII. His father then opened a stationery shop for him. It ran at a loss and he began a taxi service for tourists and employed a driver to handle it.


Introduced to charas by his friends and later to brown sugar, he began to use drugs as a form of experimentation and then took it regularly. He generally chased the brown sugar after initially taking it in cigarettes. He was introduced to injecting behaviour at the drug dealer’s house, where users were provided space to consume drugs.


At the dealers’ den where we smoke brown sugar, I have seen people inject drugs. In fact my friends who wanted to inject, would tell me how to prepare the drugs and fill the syringe and also asked me to inject them, as they did not want inject themselves. One day while I was at the den, I felt like injecting and asked an errand boy to get me a new syringe and needle. I enjoyed the high after injection; the nasha was very good. I did not continue injecting for I had seen the condition of the fixers who had been injecting for long. It is very bad, at times, they can’t find their veins and they inject anywhere, for example, even near the throat.


It is this informal interaction between drug users within the drug subculture away from society that initiate new patterns of use. This transference of information can occur even within treatment centre where users come to be drug free.


Siddhartha aged 30, began using charas in a chillum along with his friends in the locality. He lives with his family, mother and four siblings. His father who passed away years ago, used to work as a delivery man for an airline and he spent very little time at home. In the absence of his father Siddharth spent more time with his friends. Siddharth spoke about his drug use and the process by which he began to use different types of drugs.


`I began using gard in the company of users with whom I took charas. One day in the morning when we were using, an acquaintance came and put some white powder on top of the charas in the chillum. When we asked him what it was, he said that the high was better with this substance. This person was a known courier for drugs in the area’.


`We smoked the chillum with the new stuff and enjoyed the high. In the afternoon as usual we got together for another round of the chillum. This time the person was not there and we had no white powder and we did not enjoy the chillum as before. Then I went looking for the guy, he said I will give you the white powder provided you give me Rs.2 each.  So we all came together at 4 pm and smoked the chillum with the white powder. This continued for 1-2 months. Then one day the person disappeared for the police was on the look out for him’.


`During this period we had that realised the substance was addictive and also identified another regular user who was willing to purchase the drug for us in return for free drug. The errand person introduced us to the dealer, so that in case of emergency we could purchase our own drugs’.


`We were introduced to chasing and injecting by users. Smoking in pani was taught to us by a user from the community. He told us that it was better and mal keeps running from here to there. He also showed us how to make the chaser and pani from cigarette paper’.


`We were introduced to injecting behaviour by another user who used to sit near us and inject himself. When we asked him about it he showed us how he prepared the injection, and how to inject. For preparing the injection, he mixed brown sugar with the avil tablet and lime, and heated the liquid. He used the cotton to strain and pull the solution into the syringe. He said that injection was very good, as the substance went directly to the blood’.


`The first time, I was the only person who took the injection, and the user injected me. I enjoyed the high and so decided to do so the next day as well. When he injected me the next time, my hands became swollen and I removed the needle, though the user wanted me to try again. I decided never to inject myself again’.


`My friends who watched my high after taking the injection decided to try the injection and they continued to inject since then. All of them chase after injecting themselves and enjoy the process. Users who started drug on the injecting mode continue to do so; others who are basically chasers do not shift completely into injecting drugs’.


`To deal with my addiction, I decided to go in for treatment, and it is from the treatment centre that I got information on the use of Nitravet tablets. One of the patients told me that Nitravet Tablets gave sound sleep. After the treatment, I came home and was clean for three months. During that period, I went to ex-users meetings, but, I did not a get sound sleep for many days. Then I remembered what the user had told me about Nitravet tablets. So I went and purchased a strip of Nitravet tablets and I consumed the entire strip on and the next day, I repeated the same. Soon I began to use brown sugar as well’.



Initiation can occur out of choice or by accident but, often the decision to try other drugs or on a mode of consumption is based upon information provided by other users. This is seen in all the 20 cases of brown sugar users. Social interaction with users form the base graduation in terms of quantity or mode of consumption and variety in drugs consumed. Information sharing on dealing with drug habit occurs as a result of deterioration in the quality of drugs, non availability and from a desire for a better high.


Unless this social network for information gathering is influenced, changes in behaviour or assumption/expectation about drugs would be difficult to bring about. This would require an acceptance of drug users, encouragement and unbiased interaction by non-users, so that users have other options, other than an extensive dependence on an isolated knowledge base and support structure that shape graduation into drug use.


VIII. Marginalisation and entrenchment in crime

With continuing drug use, the work pattern of the individuals get disturbed either through absenteeism or unpunctuality at work. This leads to warnings and later retrenchment of the individual leading to criminal activities unless the individual corrects his erratic work pattern.


Users who find themselves out of work, start looking for any job that can bring in quick money and do not demand long hours of work or fixed hours of duty. At times, users manage their habit comfortably through a changed work style or through support networks. In the absence of any support structure, the users either seek treatment or take up petty stealing or enter the drug business to deal with financial crisis. Another study on drug users indicated that drug users may take part in petty crime to meet their drug expenses; it could include activities like stealing metal from public places, stealing household items from the home and stealing money (Charles et. al. 1999).


From a total of 20 case histories collected, eleven of the users were involved in criminal activities which ranged from petty crime to medium scale drug peddling at the street level. To present the process through which drug users are oriented to petty criminal activities or drug trade some case histories are presented. 

Involvement in criminal activities may occur as the users support network in times of financial crisis are drug users who are already involved in criminal activities. This aspect of the drug users’ reality is brought forth through the case histories of drug users and Kumar’s experience is an example of the same.


Kumar spoke about his drug use and involvement in criminal activities. He is a 23 years old, his father left them when he and his siblings were very small and their mother took care of them. After discontinuing his education, Kumar took up driving to make a living.


As people began to realise that I was into drug use and was irresponsible and unreliable they stopped giving me their vehicles to drive. I took money from friends under false pretext, but this did not last for long. One day I took Rs. 200 from my elder brother’s pocket and left the house. I began to live outside on the terrace of an empty building.


There were other users who slept there and they gave me a few lines of their drug when I was in physical discomfort. Then, one day I was woken up in the middle of the night and told, if you want to make money come with us. In the dark I followed them not knowing where we were going. We went to a company that was closed and climbed over the wall using a pipe that ran along the wall. Inside the godown there were a lot of metal pipes, we took some of them and threw it over the wall on to the other side.  Some of the pipes were very heavy and removing them in the dark was a group effort. Though we made a lot of noise, the watchman never bothered us. Later we took the stolen metal in a rickshaw to the marwadi who bought the stolen stuff at a very cheap rate. At night we received some advance payment and later in the day the account was settled. This way I was able to manage my habit.


Besides petty crime, drug users may take up criminal activities linked to the drug trade, especially if the activities assure an easy procurement of drug in return for work. While involvement in criminal activities continue till the person becomes drug free, in some instances the family intervenes and support the user to change his life.


Vikram comes from a middle class family and used to spend money on drugs from the amount given by his father for his daily expense. Occasionally, he spent time at his father’s shop, and one day when he was desperate for money he saw his father leave some money behind to be paid to a client. Vikram took some money and assumed that no body would notice the difference. His father noticed it the next day and asked Vikram about the missing amount, this frightened him and he left his home, for he could not face his family.


Out on the streets, Vikram wanted a place where he could get money or his drug, so he decided to seek help from a friend whose family was involved in the drug trade.


`I went to a friend’s place who was involved in the drug business, I helped in making pudis and selling, in the process I earned a commission, which was paid in kind, as drug. I could smoke to my hearts content and my other expenses were also taken care of. Soon my family heard that I was there selling drugs, they came and picked me up and ensured that I went for treatment’.


In most instances drug users decide to sell drugs on a small scale to continue their habit, as it cuts the costs of their drug habit. They find a small niche and as their scale of operation is not huge, they are not seen as competitors but rather as useful street level dispensers.


Satish is a bachelor aged 40, he discontinued education after his mother died, when he was 13, two years later, his father also expired. Soon after that, he was on the streets as his cousin brother sold their home. He then took up a job as a cleaner at a hotel for a short period and later worked as a loader at a vegetable market and earned Rs. 5 to Rs. 25 per day.


I used to take charas for 12 years and took no other drug. Then my friend asked me to try brown sugar, I liked the taste and became addicted to it. To sustain my habit I began to sell pudis. For the first three months I began to buy 10 puddis from Area B Hill and sold five to six puddis to others to cover my cost of drugs. I used to earn Rs. 50 per day. As users came to know that stuff was from Area B Hill, and my clientele increased. I did not face any problem as the dealers knew me to be an addict and I did not buy too much only 50 pudis a day. Now, I make around Rs. 500 per day selling drugs, I do not save anything as most of my earnings are spent on drugs.


The general pattern noticed on the streets of Mumbai city is that the drug user or his family take up small level peddling after years of drug use. There are also instances of non-users who deal in medium level drug sale later becoming drug users. Often the medium and large scale dealers are non users, who see it as a viable business venture. To illustrate the various circumstances in which a person is oriented to world of crime and drug use the case of Vishal is given below.


Vishal aged 31 lived with his family of parents, three sisters and an older brother. He being the youngest of the family; his sisters have all passed Standard XII. His brother discontinued studies after Standard IX and joined a car repair shop, after learning the trade he later set up his own business. Like his brother, Vishal also decided to be a mechanic.


In his locality there was a group of thugs who collected money forcefully from the residents (especially those who were businessmen). No one in the locality dared to protest because they were scared of being killed. The members of this gang used to come to his brother’s garage and take away expensive vehicles for long drives. His brother also had to fill the fuel tank for them. In addition to this when the owner came his brother had to tell lies, and was harassed from both sides.


One day when a member of the gang came to take a car, I prevented him saying that the owners would get angry. Besides, we could not afford to spend so much on petrol. The person got angry and hit me. In turn I took a metal piece and hit him on his head. The person was badly injured and was taken to a hospital. Then his gang came looking for me, and the police did not interfere. They came at night with weapons and threatened my family members. Unable to tolerate their continuous harassment, my friends and I went to the gang members’ locality and attacked them. This they did not expect and in the fight I killed the gang leader, by accident. This happened because I was scared and wanted to settle the matter once for all.


The incident changed my life for good. On returning from jail, people in my locality began to look at me with respect. For most of them had been harassed by the gang members and were happy that someone had taken action. It was their response that made me proud and instilled a desire to take up similar activities. What started as an accident became a job and a lifestyle.


“… I soon began to get different kinds of jobs, to settle disputes of money, land and for collection of loans taken. Prior to taking on an assignment, I made inquiries to find out the legitimacy of the claims made by prospective clients, earlier in the past I had been hired to settle false claims. To facilitate the work, we keep contacts with different localities and are constantly on the look out for new recruits. In time, despite attempts at changing appearance individuals become easily identified, to avoid detection, we need new faces. This we get through our contacts when new aspirants approach us to make fast money. 


While involved in these activities I also began to deal in brown sugar in small scale because of the profit involved.  I began with 50gms, and in 15-20 days it became very popular and many customers came. We used an abandoned school building for distributing drugs. Customers stood in queue to buy the stuff and we used to beat them up in case they broke the queue. At times we catered to 300-400 persons in a day. To facilitate our work we employed 20 persons, their job involved handing over the drug, keeping the users in a line, the collection of money and keeping a watch for the police. We made our own pudis and sold them to the customers.


In 1992, because of police pressure I had to shut down my business. After dispensing off the drug, I had 25 gm with me and then a regular client, a handicapped person, came for the stuff and I decided to give him some. I told my friend who was in the business with me Let’s check what we have been selling to the world and making fools of them. Let us know the nasha. With that I began to use, and the handicapped person also taught us how to chase. After that I continued to take drugs.



Involvement in criminal activities can begin with brown sugar users identifying it as a means to an additional source of income to sustain the habit, though this does not apply to all drug users. The shift in lifestyle and a lack of support can make users seek the help of other users already into crime or they can decide to find a small niche in the drug trade to sustain their habit.


While users who deal in drugs do it on a very small scale, middle level drug business occurs among non drug users and their dealing in drugs along with personal or circumstantial reasons can led them to drug use and a continuation of the habit.


From a total of 22 cases of brown sugar users around eleven drug users were involved in criminal activities. It is often linked to petty theft often, as seen in case of six users or petty peddling as seen in the case of five users. In one case, the peddler after losing his business became an addict.


Indulgence in petty crime helps users sustain their drug habit and meet other needs. This happens after years of consumption, which disrupts their work pattern and other social support structures with hardly any resources to fall back on drug peddling becomes an easy option.


The selective knowledge base to deal with drug use offered by other drug users and close interaction with the drug trade setting restricts the options available to drug users in a financial crisis. This may lead them to a further alienated life and make it difficult for them to come back into the mainstream even if they do leave drugs through treatment. When society has a strong negative reaction to drug users, re-entry into society can be difficult, unlike in the case of traditional drug users.


IX. Conclusion

Drug use management within the cultural context evolved within socio-cultural n