Anxious about the rising number of deaths in the country, drug-dealing and addicts alike are buying the opiate poppy for the first time in years.
“Opium is cheaper and more reliable,” said Gauri Kavita, the deputy commissioner of police in the eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which has seen a dramatic rise in overdose deaths over the last five years.
“It’s cheaper, cheaper and cheaper.”
Opium poppy in Nepal, April 2014.
| AP Photo/Harsha Bhogle,File A large amount of opium is consumed by the Nepalese heroin trade.
But, unlike the drug, the poppy is not a recreational substance like heroin.
The drug, a staple of rural Nepal, is believed to have been smuggled to India from China at a time when the region was suffering from a devastating famine.
Opium poppy is usually planted at the height of the monsoon season, but farmers have been planting it for a decade in preparation for the harvest, which starts in March and runs for the next seven months.
Opioid use is increasing in Nepal as it attempts to meet its growing population of about 10 million.
According to the National Narcotics Control Board, about a third of the country’s 1.3 million registered addicts use opium.
More than 3,000 people died of overdoses in the first eight months of this year, according to the Nepal Ministry of Health.
A growing number of Nepalis are choosing to use opium to deal with anxiety and stress after suffering through the aftermath of a devastating drought, and are now looking to the drug for relief.
One of the first states to embrace the opiates is Arunachi, in northern India, where opium poppy cultivation has been a hot-button issue in recent years.
Many farmers have said they can no longer grow opium as the crop is too toxic and expensive.
But farmers say they are also seeing a spike in the number of opiates being sold in markets.
The government has also set up a task force to help eradicate the drug from the country.
In May, a man was sentenced to six years in prison for allegedly smuggling 40 kilos of opium, worth about $2,000, from the neighbouring state of West Bengal.
The court heard that the man, identified only as R.K., had grown opium on his property in West Bengal and sold it to a neighbour.
He was arrested in August, and later died in jail, according in court documents.
India is one of the world’s biggest opium producers, but its growing opium crop is being used for medicinal purposes in the developing world.
India has also been blamed for fueling the growth of a growing market for heroin, opium and opium derivatives, including morphine, in Southeast Asia, including Myanmar.
Last month, India banned all imports of the opiod from Myanmar, a move that has led to shortages of heroin, heroin derivatives and other drugs in the region.
According to a survey by the Indian Institute of Technology-Bangalore, more than 40 per cent of people surveyed in Myanmar said they were addicted to opium, heroin or heroin derivatives.
And the number is rising.
Nepal’s heroin epidemic is a result of a lack of adequate infrastructure and medical care, and the availability of cheaper and easier to obtain opiates.
A Nepalesian woman uses opium poppies to take a dose of morphine, an opioid analgesic, in front of her husband in the village of Rishikesh, in Assam state, India, on October 28, 2015.
| AFP Photo/M.
Chittaranjan | File Nepaleses have increasingly been turning to the opioid as a way to ease chronic pain.
In the past, they used heroin to ease pain but now the heroin is being found to be much less addictive, according the Nepali Institute of Social Science.
There are also growing numbers of Nepalesians using opium for recreational purposes.
The Nepalesean National Narcotic Control Board has said that there are around 300,000 users of the drug in the state of Assam, about 60 per cent are in rural areas and the rest in urban areas.
Despite the rise in opium use, Nepal’s drug problem is not as dire as it was in recent decades.
Since the early 1980s, the country has been battling heroin and opium addiction.
But the rise of heroin and opiate use has brought an unprecedented level of death and violence in the nation, leading to the creation of the National Anti-Drug Task Force, the UN’s largest counter-narcotics body, in 2015.
It has said the drug is increasingly being used as a weapon in attacks against police, soldiers and other civilians, and that it is increasingly becoming a tool for militant groups to recruit recruits.
As Nepal struggles to cope with the growing opioid epidemic, a growing number are turning to poppy cultivation to deal in the