Despite Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s promise to break the backbone of the drug trade in just four weeks after coming to power, there seems to be no respite from the problem.
About 80,000 new heroin addicts had reported for treatment in state’s de-addiction centres last year — a daily average of 215 cases. This has been disclosed in a report compiled by the Health Department and presented during a meeting of health officials last month.
Overall, 2.09 lakh new addicts (including those hooked on to other drugs such as opium and poppy husk) had enrolled for treatment last year.
In the period year between January and December 2019, there was about 35 per cent increase in new heroin addiction cases. In January, 5,439 heroin addicts sought treatment. By December, the number rose to 8,230.
Another pointer towards the extent of the drug menace is that at present, about 4 lakh addicts are enrolled for treatment in government Outdoor Opioid Treatment Centres and private de-addiction centres. To put this figure in perspective, the state’s male population between 15 and 49 years is about 86 lakh.
Experts, however, say the figure of 4 lakh addicts doesn’t present the complete picture as a large number of addicts may still not be enrolled for treatment.
Dr BS Chavan, a famous psychiatrist and Director of Government Medical College and Hospital in Sector 32 here, said a survey of Punjab residents’ mental health conducted three years ago brought out that 80 per cent of addicts didn’t seek treatment from the hospital. “Punjab started OOAT clinics. So the situation must have improved, but more than half of the patients would not be part of any treatment programme,” he said.
Another fact which indicates the increase in number of heroin cases is the continuous increase in the consumption of de-addiction drug Buprenorphine-Naxlone, which is commonly used to cure heroin addiction. There was almost five times rise in dispensing of Buprenorphine-Naxlone tablets in private de-addiction centres between January and December last year.
The state’s Food and Drug Administration analysed the data of the number of tablets procured and dispensed by these centres between January and November 2019 and it was found that 8.33 crore tablets were procured by around 70 private de-addiction centres.
The Chief Minister’s Office could not be contacted in spite of repeated attempts. The CM’s media adviser, Raveen Thukral, didn’t take calls. Even a message sent on his mobile number failed to yield any response.
In the run-up to the Assembly elections in 2017, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had taken a pledge on a “gutka” during a rally in Bathinda to end the drug menace within four weeks after coming to power.
There was almost five times rise in dispensing of Buprenorphine-Naxlone tablets, which is commonly used to cure heroin addiction, in private de-addiction centres between January and December last year.
Courtesy: The Tribune