Growing e-commerce in India is facilitating significant increase in online pharmacies, leading to easy availability of pharmaceutical drugs and their abuse, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) says.
In its annual report for 2015, published on Friday, the NCB says abuse of pharmaceutical drugs in India has assumed serious proportions in recent times and the problem seems to be more serious in the northeast and northwest region of the country.
"The emergence of illegal websites (Internet Pharmacy) established in the USA, Europe etc. offering unregulated trade in a range of prescription medicines over the internet has taken firm root in India as a supplier.
"These online pharmacies transmit orders from paying customers to agents in India, who then procure the medicines from either legitimate or illegitimate sources before dispatching them to customers by mail and courier," the NCB says.
The sheer volume of international post makes it impossible to screen every parcel and hence a vast majority of illegal consignments passes by undetected by the authorities.
"Internet pharmacies are usually highly vulnerable and keep the identity of organisers tightly veiled. In India, nevertheless, the NCB either on its own or in coordination with the outside agencies has been making at least one bust every year over the years," the report says.
The pharmaceutical products that are abused include buprenorphine, codeine-based cough syrups, alprazolam, diazepam and other sedatives.
Many of these pharmaceutical drugs are easily available over the counter and this has become the major factor that encourages their misuse, the NCB says.
There is also the perception that these pharmaceutical drugs are less harmful than hard drugs like heroin, cocaine etc.
"However, this is a misconception, since these can be addictive and also have a debilitating effect on health. Pharmaceutical preparations having narcotic/psychotropic substances are under the purview of the Drugs and Cosmetic Act and the NDPS Act in India," it says.