WITH THE lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak disrupting daily routines, mental health experts have warned that the scare surrounding the coronavirus may trigger psychological issues among people under quarantine, pointing out those already receiving treatment for existing psychiatric ailments are under a greater risk. The psychiatrists have also red flagged the issues concerning the persons undergoing treatment for drug abuse in Punjab.
Dr Anirudh Kala, a Ludhiana-based senior psychiatrist, said the mental illnesses require a very long treatment and follow-up visits for dosage adjustment. Kala stressed on the need to formulate OPD timings for such patients in such a manner that they can be attended to on a regular basis, without any overcrowding. He said the telephone consultations will only be helpful to a small number of patients.
“According to the discussion on many professional e-groups, persons with anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders are already showing a deterioration because of the coronavirus outbreak and the saturated media coverage. They need more attention at such times, not less. If persons with serious psychiatric disorders relapse, they will not be able to take proper precautions and will be at risk to themselves and others,” said Kala in a note emailed to The Indian Express.
Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, Director-Principal Dr B S Chavan said that people, who have already been diagnosed and are under treatment, may relapse due to the closure of OPDs or if they find it difficult to get the prescription or procure the medicine.
“The people, who have been put under quarantine, are all under a lot of stress because of the uncertainty and as they have been confined to their homes. This is something new for them. Some of them may be finding it difficult to cope because they may have never stayed at home for such a long period of time,” said Chavan, who is also head of the psychiatry department.
Dr Himashu Sareen, head of psychiatry at Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences, said they have been attending the patients over phone during the lockdown and highlighted the need for regular supply of medicines to the patients to avoid relapse among them.
“It is a stressful situation. Even if a patient is stable now but because of the added stress and isolation, they might have relapse of symptoms. The situation in general may cause spurt of cases of depression, anxiety or phobic anxiety. I received a call from someone that there is a person who has been quarantined in their neighbourhood and they asked what they should do. We may see a spurt of cases even after lockdown as a repercussion,” he said, adding there are a whole spectrum of people who are vulnerable right now.
The ongoing restrictions in Punjab are also likely to affect the anti-drug abuse measures in the state. The anti-drug STF head, ADGP Harpreet Singh Sidhu, has already suggested to the health department to allow such patients to take home medicines for 28 days at one go.
Sareen said the patients undergoing treatment for drug addiction in absence of the crucial medicine will get pushed towards “cold turkey” and have major withdrawal symptoms. “Then the problem would be how would you take them to the hospitals when the Coronavirus is a priority,” he said, while stressing on taking precautions if the patients are to be allowed to take a large quantity of medicine home.
Explaining the procedure, Kalra said a large number of patients of addiction are on harm reduction treatment and the medicines are dispensed to them for a short period of time from the licensed government and private premises.
“Stopping medicine to them will lead to almost certain relapse. Considering the large numbers, this is an unthinkable situation,” he said.
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