Concluding the series of round-table conferences, Vijay Sampla, the Union Minister of State, Social Justice and Empowerment invited suggestions on problems being faced by the grassroot workers. Many psychiatrists, doctors, public health officials and NGO workers shared the changing trends in drug addiction.
At the conference, organised by the Joshi Foundation all across Punjab, which started in January, Sampla said that Punjab is coming up with 34 new de-addiction centers and clinics for drugs problem and he also took a note of a suggestion to make the treatment free. He said that financial assistance and skills training to a recovered addict is needed.
Dr Rana Ranbir Singh, working with the Punjab Health department posted at Tarn Taran said that apart from youngsters, even women are coming for drug de-addiction. To this, another doctor from Faridkot added that he had treated a newly born who had shown withdrawal symptoms as his mother had consumed drugs while she was pregnant.
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The doctor added, “Conditions in jails is also worse. I have treated 70 parolees from Faridkot jail. All of them were lodged in barrack no. 6 and 7 of the jail. 90 per cent of them were also suffering from HIV and hepatitis as they used the same needles.”
Dr Sandeep Bhola, a neuropsychiatry and drug de-addiction expert from Kapurthala said that the age group of those who are coming for treatment has reduced to age group of 12-19 years. Giving an example, Dr Sandeep said, “I came across a 14-year-old drug addict who was taking drugs for seven years. He started taking drugs due to peer pressure.”
Dr Sandeep also talked about lack of feed back mechanism. “There is no system in place to check the relapse of the patients once treated. After we discharge a patient from the de-addiction home, we do not come to know if the patient is continuing with the medication till they come to us for regular follow ups”, added Dr Sandeep.
Dr Satish Thaprar, an assistant professor at the Baba Farid University of heath sciences and a nodal officer for drug de-addiction centre there, said, “Most of the youth who is coming for treatment are school drop outs. Those who are financially well are consuming Heroin and those who are not are consuming Smack. We can only ascertain the relapse, one year after the treatment is over”.
Dr Satish said that the stigma attached to drug addiction is scaring many not to take the treatment. “We have to be non-judgemental and treat them as patients,” he said.
The moderator of the conference, Avinash Rai Khanna, a member of the Lok Sabha asked the experts if the medication used for treatment is also addictive. To this, Dr Rana Ranbir Singh said, “Like the medication for blood pressure and diabetes, de-addiction drugs may be prescribed for life, but that does not mean one becomes addicted to them.”
Khanna added that military should be made compulsory in schools to help children channelise their energies and lead a disciplined life. Dr HS Bali suggested that chemist shops should be checked as these are selling controlled drugs without prescription. Minister Surjit Kumar Jayani emphasised on moral and spiritual education for dealing with the problem.