Majority of women drug users in Arunachal introduced to opium by husbands: Study

Itanagar: A majority of women drug-users in Arunachal Pradesh were introduced to opium after marriage, by their husbands, a new study has revealed.

The study - "Women Who Use Drugs in Northeast India" - noted, "A household survey in the state found that 2.1 per cent of females were opium users" and that "a majority of them were introduced to opium by their husbands after marriage". Among 100 persons, who were surveyed, 6.4 per cent had taken drugs at least once (just ahead of Tripura's 1.1 per cent), the study found.

A higher percentage of drug consumption was found prevalent amongst users in Manipur (28.2 per cent), Mizoram (17.4 per cent), Nagaland (14.9 per cent), Meghalaya (12.1 per cent), Assam (10.2 per cent) and Sikkim (9.8 per cent). The study was commissioned by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime under its regional initiative "Prevention of transmission of HIV amongst drug users in SAARC Countries".

This is the first comprehensive study of women who use drugs across all the eight states of the Northeast. The study said "substance use among women is associated with early initiation to sex, sexual abuse, greater number of sexual partners, exchange of money for sex, and infrequent use of condoms with sexual partners".

It noted that among more than half of the women drug users in Arunachal Pradesh, the prime source of income is through selling drugs or sex. Comparing the demographic characteristics of women who use drugs in high HIV prevalent (Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland) and low HIV prevalent states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Sikkim and Tripura), the study said that women from the high HIV burden states are slightly older, more of them tend to be widowed/separated/divorced and a smaller proportion live with a partner/spouse.

Concerns were raised regarding the fact that in low HIV burden states, a significant proportion (57 per cent) of women begins to inject drugs without transitioning from non-injecting. It also stated that women in these states "who use drugs exhibit greater frequency of paid sex as well as sex in exchange for drugs".

The study noted that caution must be exercised in the low HIV burden state of Arunachal Pradesh to mount and scale up harm-reduction interventions.

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