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4 Startup Ideas to Truly Inspire an "Udta" Punjab These startup ideas could help reduce harm of the drug menace

By Rustam Singh

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They say there's no such thing as bad publicity, or that any publicity is good publicity. What can possibly work better for a movie that gets absolutely free publicity, courtesy the media and a spicy conspiracy that's got allegedly even the government talking about it? Combine it with a local language start, top with some popular national level actors, mix in a cultural pot of local languages and absolutely real problems of today, and what you get is a movie that's sure to be a blockbuster. The movie Udta Punjab as of right now seems to be facing more than 80 cuts and there are allegations of the censor board backed by the government in power to force the directors to completely change the name and references to the state of Punjab altogether. Surprisingly, almost unilaterally the population seems to agree that hiding facts would not solve any problem at all, and censoring makes no sense.

While most of us curiously wait for the launch of the promising movie, and regardless of which side of the debate you're on, the movie has thankfully brought into the public limelight of the menace of drugs into public limelight. There is no question that recreational drugs, especially in a completely unregulated society, provide disastrous results. Despite this being common knowledge and the undeniable fact of how badly India being in the crux of the golden pyramid of international drug smuggling routes, there is a disappoint number of private businesses or NGOs addressing the problems as we should.

If you're looking for inspiration for running some medical, social or health related start-ups that can act as a boon for society, then look no more. Here are some top ideas that entrepreneurs can help in harm reduction of society:

Needle Exchange programs

Very few NGOs and even fewer government policies actually understand how addiction works. Merely adopting "just say no" or forcing an addict to suddenly quit, by jail time or brute force will almost never really work. Injectable users also spread a wide variety of STDs with improper needle disposal, sharing multiple needles and reusing a syringe. These problems can be addressed by a brilliantly enforced needle exchange program, where users can report to a clinic and anonymously deposit their used needles for exchange of bottled water, multivitamins, basic medications, free consultancy, and fresh pairs of needles. The option of a judgment free zone to help them work better in keep the menace of drug users contained to one spot rather than spread its wings across all aspects in society, till a better solution is implemented.

Safe Injection Sites

Before you come up with the obvious potential of possibly encouraging more addicts' addictions, take a look at the global statistics. Needle exchanges help to not only save human lives, but prevent theft, STDs, save families form being completely destroyed and massively reduce overdoses.

A needle exchange is a legally and medically supervised shelter, staffed 24/7 with free clean water, basic first aid, counselors, nurses and a semi-private booth where hard drug users can safely enter to consume their drug, in a safe environment. By providing a stress free environment, under medical supervision, addicts are literally kept off the streets, keeping the streets crime free, and don't have to panic to get re-use syringes, or use dirty adulterants to dilute their drug of choice before consumption, reducing overdoses, and are also offered treatment and psychological assessment and support. In India, there are literally no safe injection sites because of the fear that they might encourage more users, while they've been proven statistically to be working models in several other nations facing acute drug crisis. Legally, they could face a battle between explain to the government how they're helping addicts live healthier lives rather than encourage other addicts, and could possibly fall under a grey area, but that shouldn't be a problem for inspiring advocates really looking to reduce harm. By treating addicts like human beings with dignity worth persevering and just going through a disease, they:

  • Reduce STDs by offering fresh clean needles
  • Provide basic medical aid for the homeless and improvised to look up solutions to their economic and drug problems
  • Provide food for addicts
  • Help raise their dignity and thus encourage them psychologically on the road to recovery
  • Help addicts to reduce their dosage by providing a safe haven where they don't end up overdosing because of the fear of being caught by the law
  • Helps addicts off the streets and in a safe environment without punishing them for diseases over which they have little to no control of.

Drug Testing Facilities

Surprisingly, more users actually die because of adulterants found in illicit drugs rather than the drug itself. You never really know what you're buying in an illicit drug buy – and a newer batch maybe much more potent than the one bought previously. Drug testing Kits and booths, setup and popular drug consumption spots or anonymous remote locations can help reduce this menace. By offering immediate analysis of the drug a use deposits, users can known what they're consuming, and the adulterants present in them and most importantly, it's potency. This can prevent overdoses, harmful side effects and help users possibly cut down their intake. This remains completely legal as well, apart from the stigma associated with it.

Secular, scientific Rehabilitation

Secular solutions to the most abused drug throughout the world, namely, alcohol, needs to be introduced in India immediately. We've unfortunately been brainwashed to believe alcohol is not as harmful as other drugs out there, and chances are if you ask someone for a solution they'll recommend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Disappointedly, AA is a completely faith based healing program – it literally relies on you to have "self control" and "Fear of God" to quit drinking, which has no place in a scientific and rational society. By reducing the stigma associated with AA, and providing happy places which don't seem as depressing as a punishment to the user, we can actually help encourage addicts quit much quicker. The same should apply for private rehabilitation programs of other drugs.

Of course, long term commitment plans would include a revision of the division of drugs into categories based on their harm and possibly decriminalizing those that aren't quite as harmful as the others. A systematic overall of the way we perceive addiction and addicts would be the only solution for a permanent solution to the menace. The primary goal should not be to merely jail addicts or use scare tactics for consumers, but to save human lives.

What do you think of the drug policies of India and are you excited for the movie's launch? Let us know in the comments on our official Facebook page Entrepreneur India.

Rustam Singh


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Contact me if you have a truly unique technology related startup looking for a review and coverage, especially a crowd-funded project looking to launch and coverage.

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