As many as seven experts from Gujarat Psychological Intervention Helpline (GPIH) have written a letter to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani stating that lack of availability of tobacco products to consumers during the COVID-19 lockdown have had great mental and physical effects on them. The experts also demanded re-opening of de-addiction centres across the state to help those in need.
The experts’ team from Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat and Botad claimed that they have counselled 45,000 people who were put under quarantine in Rajkot and Botad during the lockdown, among whom at least 25-30 per cent were found to be active users of tobacco products such as cigarettes, bidis, paan masala and ‘faaki’. These experts said that since the lockdown, the users have claimed to be suffering from withdrawal symptoms after the state government announced closure of all pan parlour shops to avoid mass gatherings.
“The state government had provided GPIH a list of 45,000 people who were put under quarantine in Rajkot and Botad and had asked our team of over 150 psychologists to counsel them. In our research, we have found that people who are active users of tobacco are suffering from withdrawal symptoms and have great mental and physical effects on them. Therefore, we wrote a letter to the CM stating that the de-addiction and rehabilitation centres be opened in the state and the government must arrange for large scale counselling of people through digital mediums,” said Dr Rajesh Parmar, a psychologist and founder of GPIH.
Dr Parmar said that his team is increasingly seeing cases where people have complained to them regarding non-availability of tobacco as reason behind their present state.
“A 37-year-old man who has been a tobacco user for the past 10 years called me. He said that he heard that I am a big doctor and if I can arrange ‘faaki’ for him as according to him, he has been suffering from constipation for the past four days and has been picking up fights with his family. We then started counselling him on phone itself. Similarly, we are seeing cases where people have complained of lack of concentration, insomnia, mood swings and fits due to the withdrawal symptoms,” said Dr Parmar.
Explaining the counselling process, Dr Parmar said, “First we try to understand the extent of tobacco addiction in the user and the time span of usage. Then we figure out the cognition behind the addiction as many say that they suffer from constipation without it, professional drivers say that they can’t focus on work without paan masala or bidi, some complain of insomnia without tobacco. We then try to find alternate solutions to it by suggesting medication for constipation and likewise. For people in villages, we ask them to believe in a particular deity and abstain from addiction as far as possible.”
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