Understanding the Treatment Gap for Substance Use Disorder in India

The study aims to measure the availability of treatment for substance use disorder in selected states in India, understand the treatment preferences of medical practitioners, and gain insights into treatment demand (or lack of it).


Substance or drug use disorder is a growing problem in India. The recent report of the National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use (2018) includes estimates for eight categories of psychoactive substances across all states and union territories of India. These eight substances are Alcohol, Cannabis, Opioids, Cocaine, Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS), Sedatives, Inhalants and Hallucinogens. The survey report shows that alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used by Indians between 10 and 75 years of age. After Alcohol, Cannabis and Opioids are the next commonly used substances. In addition to the survey findings, multiple other studies in recent times highlighted that Opioid use is a growing problem in certain parts of the country including Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. There have been multiple policy initiatives from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) to combat the issue of drug addiction. 

Treatment Gap

The National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use (2018) shows that i) only about 25% of people who suffer from drug addiction receive treatment and ii) the targeted programs by the MoSJE (support to NGOs for establishing Integrated Rehabilitation Services for Addicts – IRCAs) and MoHFW (support to government hospitals for establishing de-addiction centres) are not so successful in catering to the vast demand of treatment. However, it requires further evaluation as the survey was conducted in 2018 when the drug de-addiction programs of the Government of India were relatively at a nascent stage. 


In this context, the objectives of the current study are as follows:

Conduct a census of substance abuse treatment facilities in selected states, including MoSJE-sponsored centres run by NGOs, MoHFW-supported de-addiction centres within government hospitals, and private/charitable de-addiction and rehabilitation centres. 

  • The goal is to create a sampling frame of such facilities along with their location, contact details and basic characteristics.

From the sampling frame, select a representative sample of substance abuse treatment facilities covering different types of facilities and survey selected facilities. The survey will have three components:

  • Interview of facility in charge to collect data on facility characteristics, infrastructure, financial model, human resources and basic services offered.
  • Interview one or two physicians to ask detailed questions on different types of treatment provided and services offered across eight categories of psychoactive substance addiction.
  • Understand treatment preferences under different hypothetical drug-addicted patient profiles.

Conduct a qualitative investigation involving users and other community members to gain insights into treatment demand (or lack of it) and the mismatch between treatment availability and treatment demand.

Results forthcoming.

Thematic Area

Health Systems and Quality of Life

Project Leads

Principal Investigators: Santanu Pramanik (Research Director, LEAD at Krea University), Stephane Helleringer (Professor of Social Research and Public Policy, NYU Abu Dhabi) Associated Investigator: Jemima A. Frimpong (Program Head and Associate Professor of Business, Organizations and Society; Associate Professor of Social Research and Public Policy, NYU Abu Dhabi)


New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD)