Punjab’s health minister Brahm Mohindra wants to urge the union government to add drug abuse to the list of possible causes of death on official death certificates. Currently, there are 38 possible options for cause of death, although drug addiction and overdose are not mentioned.
The death certificate format is created by the centre, and states do not have the authority to change it. This is because the data is used to understand national indicators on health in the nation, as well as medical problems that need urgent oversight and research.
“I am going to write to the Union health minister, JP Nadda to include drugs as one of the causes of death in the proforma for issuing the death certificates,” Mohindra told Times of India. “Till date, we do not have any mechanism to ascertain whether a death has been caused due to drugs since there is no such option in the death certificate,” he added.
This problem is particularly acute in Punjab. According to a study from 2017 mentioned by the BBC, more than 860,000 young men in the state, between the ages of 15-35, take some form of drugs. Heroin is the most preferred, used by 53% of all addicts. However, opium and synthetic drugs such as crystal methamphetamine are also common.
The same article states that drug consumption in Punjab is three times the national average. Estimates say that more than two-thirds of Punjabi households have at least one addict in the family. The issue has been linked to the stagnating growth of agriculture in the state, low industrialisation, and scars from the violent separatist militancy movements of the 1980s.