NEW DELHI : The central govt has classified several medicines, including painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, and sedatives, as narcotics and psychotropic substances, as part of a crackdown against substance abuse.

These medicines include the pain-relief drug isotonitazenediphenidine, used to treat neurotoxic injuries; clonazolam, used to control seizures in epilepsy patients; anti-anxiety drug diclazepam; and sedative flubromazolam, according to a government notification.

These drugs won’t be available over the counter or in a hospital following their reclassification. In addition, any pharmacy that sells these drugs can be booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act), which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Queries sent to health ministry remained unanswered till press time.

“These drugs do not have much treatment value and can cause addiction. Hence, this is the right step. But now, with this notification, if someone tries to sell these drugs, they can be booked under the NDPS Act,” said Dr Atul Ambekar, professor at National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre at AIIMS, New Delhi.

The reclassification of these drugs in India follows the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs placing them on the list of psychotropic substances. “Last year, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs decided to place these eight substances under international control. This is the responsibility of the WHO to examine and recommend various substances for scheduling. Once WHO recommends, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs decides to accept or reject the recommendation. Usually, the commission accepts WHO’s recommendations,” Ambekar said. “Since India follows the United Nations conventions, the government is also bringing these internationally controlled substances under the national laws.”

According to a report jointly published by the ministry of social justice and empowerment and the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, AIIMS, in 2019, around 2.5 million people in the country were addicted to pharmaceutical opioids.

Meanwhile, the Indian Drugs Manufacturer’s Association has directed its member companies to ensure compliance.

Dr Srinivas Rajkumar T., a Chennai-based psychiatrist, said the government took the right step in controlling these drugs.