Current Status in Bangladesh of Drug Abuse

A. Background

Drug abuse directly influences the economic and social aspects of a country. In Bangladesh it is a growing national concern. There are millions of drug-addicted people in Bangladesh and most of them are young, between the ages of 18 and 30. And they are from all strata of the society. A recent epidemiological survey carried out in the three divisions of Bangladesh shows that the country is going to be transformed into a potential user of drugs with the rapid increase in the number of addicts. For the safety of our people and the society from this deadly game, we have to control illicit drug transportation immediately. Under the circumstances, Research And Social Survey Unit of Democracywatch has taken an initiative to find out the severity of drug addiction and drug trafficking in Bangladesh. In this view we took Comilla town as the case study site, one of the major vulnerable areas of drug addiction and drug trafficking points in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is situated in the central point between the ‘golden triangle’ (Mayanmar, Thailand and Laos) and the ‘golden crescent’ (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) in terms of geographical location. And it is also surrounded by the major drug producing countries of Asia, many of which are strengthening their narcotics legislation and stepping up enforcement measures. Bangladesh with its easy land, sea and air access is becoming a major transit point. Traffickers who supply drugs in the markets of Northern America, Africa, and Europe are routing their shipments through Dhaka, Chittagong, Comilla, Khulna, and other routes in Bangladesh. It is believed that with the increasing quantity of the wares more and more people are likely to get involved in drug business. In this way it ultimately contributes to the number of drug abusers as well.

Our country is a land surrounded by India from three corners. The northern and eastern sides are surrounded with hills and mountains. And the western corner is mainly plain land. The hilly regions are suitable for illicit drug trafficking. The traffickers can easily hide themselves in these hilly forests and transfer the drugs safely. In our country there are many border-crossing points from where every day millions of money are being exchanged for drugs. The border crossing points with neighboring countries are shown in Table A:

 Table A

The Main Border Crossing Points In Bangladesh That Are Highly Used For Smuggling



Border crossing points

WesternIndiaBenapol, Dorshona, Dogachi, Parsha, Hilly, Birol, Balubari, Banglabandha.
EasternIndia and      MayanmarLatu, Ahamadabad, Akhaura, Koshba, Amratoly, Razapur, Braymmapara, Bibirbazar, Chaddagram, Suagazi, Mirja nagar, Ramghar, Barkal, Ukhia, Teknaf
NorthernIndiaTinbigha Corridor, Patgram, Mogholhat, Ailatoly, Tamabil
In Comilla(Eastern region)India and      MayanmarAmratoly, Razapur, Braymmapara, Bibirbazar, Chaddagram, Suagazi

(Source: Graphosman’s New Atlas)

NB: Table mentioned border crossing points as well as some nearest border area

From Table-A, it is clear that Comilla is one of the most popular drug trafficking points in our country. A few days back, Democracywatch had some campaign programs, especially on anti-drug issues in Comilla town. As a follow-up of the program the Research and Social survey unit recently conducted this research in January 2001. The research focused mainly on the youth in Comilla town.

Objectives of the study

  •  to identify the family-related and social reasons for being addicted;
  •  to identify the key role players in drug business in Comilla;
  •  to find out the economic loss of the drug abusers and their families;
  •  to find out the ways and alternatives in coming back from addiction to normality

II. Types of drugs found in Bangladesh

There are three types of drugs available in use in Bangladesh.

1.      Opium

a) Heroin

b) Phensidyl

c) Tidijesic

d) Pethidine

2.      Cannabis

a) Ganja

b) Chorosh

c) Bhang

3.      Sleeping pill

a) Tranquilizer

b) Seduxene (Diazapam)

c)      Opium

In Comilla: Specifically in Comilla we found many drugs, which are in use by the abusers. These are:Wine, Ganja, Heroin,Chorosh, Opium, Phensidyl, Pethidine. Sleeping pills are randomly being used since they can be easily bought from any nearby medicine shop/pharmacy and in most cases without doctor’s prescription. These are: Enoctine, Seduxene, Phenergan, Stemetil, Laxatine.

Table B

Main Drugs Smuggling Traffic Roots In Comilla


Source / where from

Rout up to Comilla

HeroinIndia, Mayanmar, South-East AsiaBenapol, Rajshahi to Comilla, and Cox-bazar to Chittagong to Comilla.
PhensidylIndiaEvery border crossing point in Bangladesh. In Comilla it comes mainly in Bibir bazaar, Amratoli, Matinagar, Fakir bazaar, Boura bazaar, and some other places Choddagram, Laksam, Cosba.
GanjaIndia, Mayanmar, Naogoan, and other district in Bangladesh.Every border crossing point in Comilla The main root is Rajshahi – Dhaka—Comilla. Teknaf, Chittagong – Comilla By bus and Train.
WineIndia, Mayanmar, Europe, also from growth triangle.The main route for trafficking wine is Chittagong And Cox’s-Bazar by ships and some other border crossing places in Eastern and Western side. Some times they use Mongla port also.
ChorashIndia and localityMainly in to border crossing point.
OpiumSouth East Asia and Growth triangle.Chittagong, Mongla sea roots, and other land roots are used.
PethidineAs a pain relief medicine it’s come from everywhere.

 D. Some Findings from survey

1.              Opinion on how the respondents were drug abused

Encouragement from friends

Frustration from family matters

To get immediate relief from tension

2.              Reasons for being addicted to drugs

Easy access to drugs

 Unemployment problem/economic insolvency

Surrounding atmosphere

 Estranged in love

Mental stress due to family problem

3. Sources of money for buying drugs

From own income

From pocket money

Loan from friends, family members

Collect money by criminal activities like hijacking, extortion etc.

4. Where from respondents collect drugs/the nearest drug spots

Specific sellers in the locality

Drug smugglers in town

Houses near border area

Drug smugglers in border crossing points

From police, BDR

Spots beside lanes/roads

5. Persons involved in drug business/smuggling: Respondents opinion

Some elites in society

 Some political leaders/so-called student leaders

 A syndicate of smugglers

 Some members of the police/BDR

6.  Causes why respondents change drugs one after another

A tendency to increase the dose because the same dose doesn’t create the desired effect.

 Impatience in body and insomnia in not having drug after a certain time.

A psychological and physical dependence on the effects of the drugs.

 to feel better

Easy access to other drugs

Lower cost

Adventure in tasting different drugs

Desire to have an extreme taste of addiction

7.  Negative effects due to drug abusing: Respondents view

Physical impatience


Sense of perception doesn’t work

 Increased head-ache

Feeling dizziness until taking drugs

Hallucination syndromes

Decreased working capability and stability

Sexual problem

Abnormal behavior

Loose humanity and every kind of assessment

Lack of discipline in daily life

8. Suggestions of respondents to get rid of drug addiction

Personal will is the main way to get rid of addiction

Creating more employment opportunities

 Ensuring proper treatment and rehabilitation measures

 Healthy drug free working environment

To involve in any creative work

 To avoid mixing with bad company

 Enactment of articles on anti-drug issues in the text books and newspapers

 Media campaign against drugs

9.              Changes in social behavior according to the respondents

Increased hijacking

Increased extortion

Increased stealing, robbery

 Deteriorated law and order situation and respect ness to elder

Increased personal and family expenditure

Lost of interest in education

Change in morality

10.  Comment on the role of Police/BDR

        Some members of the police and BDR are involved in this business who take some percentage of the sale money. Sometimes they even escort them while crossing the town safely

 11. Comment on the role of Narcotics Control Department

 They pretend to be ignorant, sometimes their performance is poor

Some of them are involved in the drug business

12.           Comments on the role of NGOs

In some areas different NGO’s are conducting anti-drug awareness program/campaign.

 13.Respondents’ overall comments

Easy access to drugs is one of the major problems in becoming addicted

Persons from all Occupations: doctors, teachers, students, service-holders, businessmen etc. are involved more or less in drug business

In Comilla town there are at least 5-8 per cent of the total population who are engaged in drug business directly or indirectly

Roles of the department of narcotics control, police, BDR are not up to the satisfactory level.

Focus Group Discussion

Focus group 1:

I. Personal Profile

Total number of discussants is 12. Their average age is around 26 years. All of them passed the HSC and some have university degrees. Almost all participants are sportsmen. One of them is a badminton player of the national team. Many of the sportsmen have side businesses.  Average monthly income of the group is Tk 5,000 per month.

II. Principle findings

All from this group were engaged in games and sports during their school lives and were free from addiction. After passing higher secondary examination their friends influenced them to taste it and gradually they get addicted. Previously they were all upper division players, later as they lacked strength due to addiction, they couldn’t concentrate well on their sports. As a result, their performance fell which finally made them frustrated. Slowly and steadily their sports career came to an end. This group takes various drugs but according to them ‘Phensidyl’ tops the list, then comes ‘heroin’ and ‘alcohol’.

During our conversation they had 5-6 sticks of ‘ganja’. At present the rate of addiction is so severe that drugs are controlling the health and mind of the addicts. Among them, those who are heroin addicts have been taking it for the last 8-12 months. It happened due to the rise in the price of ‘Phensidyl’ and the rise in the number of addicts.

On an average they take drugs at least twice a day, which cost them approximately Tk. 200.

Reasons for getting addicted to drugs:

1.      Wide availability

2.      To get relief from frustration.

3.      To forget the pain of separation from both broken affairs and marriages and also to some extent from family problems (esp. broken family children).

Available drugs: Heroin b) Phensidyl c) Ganja d) Alcohol e) Beer f) Sleeping Pills

Feelings and reactions of drug: The body relaxes and the mind feels fresh after taking drugs. If an addict cannot take it, peevish temperament occurs and he doesn’t wish to work or even talk. S/he feels fever, headache, itches in his body and sometimes vomiting also occurs.

Most of the married persons of this group are frustrated and unhappy in their conjugal life.

They stated that the sports tradition of Comilla is at stake only due to the increasing rate of addiction.

Their suggestion to control narcotics: To control the prevailing unpleasant situation the government and the mass of people should come forward. In this aspect the availability of drugs should be curtailed. In Comilla there are more than hundreds of places where drugs can be taken. Moreover, in streets the hawkers sell drugs even in front of the police.

Focus group 2:

I. Personal Profile

The number of participants is 20. Average age of this group is 30. Everyone is related to the health profession i.e. doctors and medical promotion officers etc. Almost every one of them is economically solvent. Their Average income is Tk. 15000.

II. Principle findings

They have been abusing drugs since their student life. Some of them increased their dose after starting their professional career. They all take drugs in-group. They are mainly addicted to ‘phensidyl’ and ‘ganja’. On an average they take five bottles ‘phensedyl’ during the day. Without taking drugs they can’t concentrate on their work. Even some of them take ‘phensedyl’ in their own chambers, and every evening they move to certain spots to take drugs in-group.

easons for becoming addicted:

1.      The wide availability of drugs is one of the main reason for their addiction

2.      The price is lower than other areas in Bangladesh

3.      As there is no access to entertainment, they treat drugs as a tool of entertainment.

According to them at least 50 per cent of the doctors and MRO’s in Comilla are addicted to drugs.

They spend Tk. 150-200 daily for drugs on an average.

According to them, merchants, and politicians in Comilla town are involved in drug business through people of low-income groups and administration. The houses near ‘Shashan gacha’ and the station road are the largest drugs selling spot.

They stated that teachers, lawyers and police are also more or less addicted to drugs.

 F. Case Study

Study 1:

Personal Profile: The victim of this case is a young chap named Khaled. Though he is 20 years of age, he looks like a man of 40 years. He continued up to class eight and afterwards was involved in a clothing business. His monthly income is around Tk. 3000. His father also earns. Total family member is 7.

Main findings: He has been useing drugs for 10 years. He started to use drugs since he was a schoolboy. Firstly, his friends introduced him to drugs as a means of enjoyment. Gradually he became addicted. He started with ‘ganja’. He sometimes changes his drugs to meet his satisfaction level. He changes drugs one after another from ‘ganja’, ‘phensidyl’, and ‘wine’ to ‘heroin’. Now he is fully addicted to ‘heroin’, and has to take it four times in a day. Without having it he can’t do anything. He has to take at least two ‘puria’s of ‘heroin’ every morning. A psychological and physical dependence has grown in his body. He spends Tk. 80-100 everyday for drugs. Sometimes, for collecting money, he turns to hijacking. He collects drugs from local spots or from particular persons. These drugs come mainly from India through Bibir Bazar border area.

According to him, in Comilla, the most used drug is ‘heroin’. Though he is aware of the negative impacts of drugs, he can not avoid it because of the ‘withdrawal symptoms’ He opined that in Comilla most of the abusers are unemployed, young, students, and doctors. He even knew about some girls/ladies who take drugs. He thought that in Comilla approximately 50-60 per cent of the people are drug users.  Some social hazards viz. hijacking, stealing etc. are happening due to drug addiction. He told us that the police are collaborating with the drug dealers by taking bribes.

Study 2:

Personal Profile: He is Masum (21), looks healthy, studying at graduate level. His monthly pocket money is approximately Tk. 1000. His father is the only earning member of the family consisting of seven members.

Main findings: He has been drug abused for the last 2 years. He started drugs as enjoyment through friends. He started with ‘ganja’. He changes his drugs for more satisfaction. Now he is fully addicted to ‘heroin’, and has to take it at least twice a day. Without having it he can’t do anything. He has to take at least a puria heroin every morning. He spends Tk. 80-100 everyday for drug purposes. For the excess money, sometimes he takes loan from friends or steals his own household materials. He collects drugs from the local spots or a particular person.

 Study 3

Personal Profile: His name is Iqbal Hossain, age 23. He passed the HSC, presently unemployed. He has no sources of income but gets Tk. 1500-2000 monthly as pocket money from family. His family member is 11 and all of them are educated.

Main findings: He has been abusing drugs for 2 years. He turned to drugs because of his personal problem. He fell in love with his cousin and they got married without the consent of their families. This made him frustrated. He started with ‘phensidyl’ and now ends with ‘heroin’, takes it twice a day. He collects drugs from the local spots and/or from a particular person.

He told us that police are helping the drug sellers, and if the police and the BDR maintain their duties and responsibilities, no drugs can reach Comilla town.

G. Recommendations

During the fieldwork it has been found that many people, especially the youths are eager to get rid of drugs. But unfortunately they can hardly find any way out. The departments of narcotics control, police, BDR etc. either do not work or/and even some how are related to drug smuggling/business. According to the discussion with the concerned people such as drug abusers, guardians, teachers, policemen and related persons in the drug business, it is clear that behavioural modification of the abusers is not enough to check the spread of drug taking and drug trafficking in Comilla. The concerned people gave the following suggestions in order to free Comilla of drugs:

Concerned administration should be reshuffled. Culprits, those who are hidden in the police, BDR and narcotics control department, must be punished. At the same time, rewards may be declared for good performance. It is obvious that, drugs business in Comilla would fall rapidly if border-crossing areas can be checked properly.

 Leaders of social institutions like schools, colleges, clubs etc. should come forward to build resistance against drugs.

The NGOs can play a great role in Comilla, especially in the awareness and rehabilitation processes. It is observed by many of the addicts that, the rehabilitation procedures and costs introduced by the narcotics department are high and cumbersome. But only a few NGOs are active.

The addicts, while talking with the investigators sought treatment to wipe out the negative effects of drugs.