Following the arrest of two psychiatrists on December 19, the Punjab and Chandigarh branch of Indian Psychiatric Society (PUNCIPS) has stopped prescribing buprenorphine drug which, as per doctors, is scientifically approved treatment worldwide for patients who are addicts of opium, smack or heroin or also called as opioid addicts.
The same tablets were seized from the arrested doctors. Members of PUNCIPS maintained that even they were treating the addicts with the similar drug. “Treating opioid patient is not drug peddling,” said Dr Puneet Kathuria, president of PUNCIPS. Now all such patients will be referred to civil hospital as they were upset with the way the two doctors had been arrested and booked under the NDPS Act.
The doctors stated that nearly 500 psychiatrists across the state were catering to not less than 10,000 patients per day. Now the entire rush will be going to the civil hospital only.
The doctors have asked the government to allow OPD-based centres for treatment of addicts and such centres must be registered with the government. As of now, de-addiction is being done only in registered de-addiction centres only. This would increase the scope for treatment of patients and harassment of doctors would also be ended, maintained the doctors, who submitted a memorandum to civil surgeon Dr Subash Batta and Deputy Commissioner Rajat Aggarwal.
On December 19, Dr Ashish Gupta was arrested from Khanna. He was found with the above-mentioned drug. As per the police, he did not have a licence to run a de-addiction centre. On the same day, Dr Sudha Vasudeva, a psychiatrist and in charge of the civil hospital’s de-addiction centre, was also arrested from Mullanpur for selling the drugs of the civil hospital’s de-addiction centre. The police maintained that the doctors had been selling these tablets at a higher rate to addicts and hence they were booked under the NDPS Act.
Dr Rajeev Gupta, a city-based psychiatrist, said, “We strongly condemn the arrest of two of our colleagues. The manner in which they have been arrested have sent shockwaves in the entire psychiatry community of the state. Instead of sending a warning letter or setting up an appropriate departmental inquiry, they have been treated as hardcore criminals. We strongly criticise this move of the local agencies. We shall not tolerate the way the psychiatrists who are treating the drug addict population of the state are being treated by the administrative agencies.”
The doctors stated that no mention has been made by the government regarding the OPD-based treatment being provided by psychiatrists across the state. Therefore, they wanted OPD centres to be registered.
Regarding treatment of patients, doctors stated that an addict who consumes about a gram of heroin (costing Rs 5,000 per day) is put on substitute therapy during de-addiction which costs nearly Rs 5-30 per day. A few need to consume this tablet for long to get rid of costly heroin which is also making addicts criminals apart from causing hepatitis C, B and cancer-like diseases.
Though the doctors maintained that they treat the patients and should not be taken as drug peddlers, buprenorphine drug comes under the narcotics Act and the police maintained that only licence-holder de-addiction centres could use these drugs for treating patients.