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Data: More than 80% of the Suicides due to Drug abuse/Alcohol addiction are outside the Mega Cities

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The alleged suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput has put the spotlight back on drug abuse. Data from the NCRB reveals that more than 80% of the suicides due to Drug abuse/Alcohol addiction are reported from outside the mega cities. Such suicides in Karnataka quadrupled in the last four years. 

The death and alleged suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput has been receiving a lot of media coverage. Suicide because of drug abuse has also been widely discussed across social media platforms. 

While the death of the actor was initially declared a suicide, there have been apprehensions on the death with various narratives being floated across mainstream media and social media platforms. Recently, the CBI was roped in to investigate the case. An angle of drug abuse is now being associated with the death and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has arrested a few people earlier associated with the deceased actor. 

In this context, we take a look at the numbers relating to suicides caused due to drug abuse in India over the last few years and analyse the related trends. Information provided in National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB)  annual Accidental Death & Suicides in India (ADSI) reports are considered for the analysis. 

Number of Suicides due to Drugs abuse & alcohol addiction more than doubled in the last 10 years 

In the ADSI reports, suicides which are caused due to Drug abuse and alcohol addiction are categorized under one head, with no separate categorization for only drug abuse. Even in the data relating to deaths due to road accidents, drugs & alcohol are categorized under one head. 

In the year 2010, there were 3,343 cases of suicides that were reported under this category. After an increase in the next two subsequent years, the number of suicides with drug abuse/alcohol addiction as the cause fell in the year 2014. However, in the ensuing years, the numbers have gradually increased with 7,860 suicides being reported under this category in 2019. The greatest increase in the numbers have been recorded in both 2016 and 2017, where in the total number of suicides due to this cause increased by over 1500 compared to preceding year’s number. 

More than 95% of those committed suicide with this cause were Male

In the year 2019, 7719 out of the total 7860 suicide victims due to drug abuse/alcohol addiction were male. This accounts for  98.2% of all the victims and is the highest over the 10-year period of 2010 to 2019. During this 10-year period, the least share of male victims among those who committed suicide due to this cause was in 2015 with 95.7%. With the exception of that year, the share of male victims never fell to less than 96%. Prior to 2014, the gender categorization of victims was provided only as ‘Male’ & ‘Female’. From 2014, ‘transgender’ is also included in the categorization of victims. 

While the higher victim proportion cannot be directly correlated to higher usage of drugs among men, the unusually higher proportion of male victims does reveal a thing or two about the consumption trends of both drugs & alcohol. 

Maharashtra has the highest number of recorded suicides due to this cause

In an earlier story, we observed that as per the available data until 2015, Maharashtra has the highest number of suicides due to drug abuse/alcohol addiction.  Over the next four years i.e. during 2016-19, the trend continued with Maharashtra recording the highest number of suicides under this category. While Maharashtra maintains the top position, what is significant is the increase in the number of such cases in Karnataka in these four years. 

Karnataka, which has reported less than 100 cases per year up until 2015, has reported suicides of 399, 936, 1230 and 1133 respectively between 2016 & 2019 under this category. In both 2018 & 2019, Karnataka reported the second highest number of cases, overtaking Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, which have alternated for the second position earlier. However, in the absence of the breakup between drug abuse & alcohol addiction, it will be difficult to attribute this increase in Karnataka to one of the two. 

However, in terms of incidence per million population, Kerala has higher number of cases compared to the other big states. Since there is vast difference in the population of states, the absolute numbers may be higher for few of the highly populated states, and states with lower population may be reporting a smaller number of cases, even though the incidence is higher. 

We have considered the mid-year projection of the population for 2019, to arrive at the incidence of number of suicides due to drug abuse/alcohol addiction.  The incidence is much higher in North Eastern States, e.g. Sikkim has incidence of 59.7 per million population, mainly due to their lower population base. 

Only around 1/5th of the total suicides due to drug abuse/addiction are recorded in major Urban centers 

ADSI report identifies 53 urban centres in the country as ‘mega cities’  that had a population of more than 10 lakh as per the 2011 Census. All the NCRB reports provide the statistics specific to these cities.  As per the 2019 data, out of the total 7,860 suicide cases, only 1415 i.e. 18% of the total suicides reported in the category or from these 53 mega cities. This was slightly more than the previous year, wherein it was 16%. 

Among the mega cities, Chennai and Bengaluru have the highest number of cases. In 2019, Chennai reported 329 suicides due to Drug abuse/alcohol addiction, followed by Bengaluru with 143 cases. While Chennai has been consistently at the top over the five-year period between 2015 and 2019, Bengaluru has witnessed a substantial increase in the number of suicides over the last three years. The trend in Bengaluru corresponds to the trend observed in Karnataka, though it contributes only a fraction of the state’s numbers. 

Meanwhile, the numbers are relatively lower in the other large Cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Pune & Kolkata, with Hyderabad and Ahmedabad recording much lower numbers, mostly in single digits. Comparatively smaller urban centres have recorded higher number of suicides. Prominent among them include Nagpur, Indore, Tiruchirappalli, Bhopal etc. 

In the below graphical representation, we have considered the data for the 8 largest cities  (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune & Ahmedabad) irrespective of their numbers along with 8 other cities which have reported higher numbers over the years. 

Suicides due to Drug abuse/alcohol addiction are higher outside the mega cities 

As highlighted earlier in the story, suicides which are caused due to drug abuse or alcohol addiction are categorized under the same head in the ADSI reports. Hence it is not possible to ascertain the number of suicides solely due to drug abuse from the available data. 

A trend which is clearly noticeable, is that contrary to the popular perception that suicides due to drug abuse are widespread in mega cities, data indicates the opposite. More than 80% of the suicides due to Drug abuse/alcohol addiction are reported outside these 53 mega cities.  Even in case of Maharashtra, which has the highest number of such suicide cases, the numbers aren’t from Mumbai. 

However, from a drug abuse perspective, this assessment isn’t conclusive as the higher numbers in semi-urban & rural centres could be driven by alcohol addiction.  Nevertheless, data does validate the theory that drug abuse and alcohol addiction is not just an urban issue anymore. 

Furthermore, the data in the ADSI report is only about the suicides which are caused due to drug abuse/alcohol addiction. The proportion of people who actually are indulging in drug abuse or addicted to alcohol could be much higher and their trend along with distribution might vary. However, such data is not readily available. 

Featured Image: Suicides due to Drug abuse

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