Medical use, misuse, and diversion of opioids in India

Lancet. 2001 Jul 14;358(9276):139-43. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(01)05322-3.


In less-developed countries, opioids such as morphine are often not available for pain relief because of excessive regulations imposed to prevent their misuse and diversion. We describe the effect that these draconian measures have had on the availability of drugs for medical use in Kerala, India, and present results of a study, which we did to ascertain whether or not the misuse and diversion of opioids is as prevalent as the government reaction would suggest. We followed 1723 patients in Calicut, India, who were being treated for pain with oral morphine on an outpatient home-care basis. Over 2 years, we did not identify any instances of misuse or diversion. These results suggest that, in the context of India as a less-developed country, oral morphine can be dispensed safely to patients for use at home. We recommend that palliative care programmes talk to concerned governmental authorities, to make them aware of the medical need for opioids, and communicate with local news media to increase awareness of palliative care and the use of these analgesics. Our project has overcome regulatory barriers that had interrupted availability of morphine and its use in pain relief in India.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Analgesics, Opioid / supply & distribution
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Developing Countries
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Utilization
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Forecasting
  • Home Care Services
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Morphine / supply & distribution
  • Morphine / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Palliative Care / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Safety
  • Terminal Care


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Morphine