Crack down on vendors, build affordable rehabilitation centers


Not so long ago, a 14 year old teenager was sitting in front of me staring at the floor. Parents complained that their son often became aggressive without any apparent provocation. Twenty years ago, I would have tried to look at school distress, parental pressure, or adolescent disorders as probable reasons. This time I first requested a urine test for drugs.

The teenager tested positive for cannabis (a plant whose leaves give us bhangflowering tops the ganja, and the resin charas). Many deceive their parents by using the urine sample of friends who are clean.

The parents were shocked, they were caring and compassionate. The boy confessed that he befriended older children pursuing engineering, which led him to smoke weed.

Likewise, many parents are confused when they discover eye drops in their children’s bags. Eye drops are used to mask red eyes that are a result of cannabis use.

These are common stories in Indian subways. Most of these young boys and girls do not need a rehabilitation center. They can do well with counseling because cannabis is largely non-addictive and rarely addictive.

War on drugs

The World War on Drugs dates back to 1961, when India, along with many other countries, signed the proposed United Nations’ Single Convention to Combat the Threat of Drugs and included cannabis in the list of drugs. narcotics.

Suddenly we added the “plant” that has been used in India for over 2000 years to a list of new addictive drugs. Many other “conventions” followed, adding more drugs to the list. “Ban drugs from the face of the earth” was a famous slogan of US President Richard Nixon, denying the cultural use of cannabis and other drugs.

On the one hand, there is a section that advocates for the legalization of cannabis use, on the other hand, many believe that it should not be done.

Cannabis affects mood, behavior and memory and, in rare cases, can cause serious mental illness. In the long term, brain scans of cannabis users show loss of neurons. Herbs used as drugs are less harmful than extracts, like heroin and brown sugar, and synthetic drugs, like mephedrone, ecstasy, and LSD. In India, opium came with the Mughals while cocaine arrived between the two world wars.

Need for affordable rehabilitation centers

Mephedrone and MDMA (ecstasy), white powders that have recently entered India over the past decade, are extremely addictive and cause intense craving and weight loss. Death is not uncommon in prolonged users.

Hundreds of “drug rehab centers” have mushroomed across the country, largely run by charlatans, where the line of treatment is in violation of human rights. Victims need counseling, medication and referral from trained professionals at centers licensed by the state mental health authority. “Narcotics Anonymous”, a self-help group, can also help in the treatment process.

But the state must do more. There are large tracts of land available with public hospitals that can be turned into rehabilitation centers. There are no rehabilitation centers exclusively for young people. Although there are private centers that cater exclusively to the wealthy, there is an urgent need for affordable and free rehabilitation centers across the country.

State response to the “first wave”

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Department of Social Welfare (now Department of Social Justice and Empowerment) as well as the United Nations International Drug Control Program funded hundreds of centers across the country. Brown sugar was destroying thousands of families. I had worked with one of these centers, the Sevadhan Deaddiction Center in Mumbai, founded by Russell Pinto, a former drug addict.

The Ministry of Health also had its own centers across the country called “Centers of Excellence”. Funding later stopped after HIV eclipsed the drug epidemic. This period can be called the “first wave” of the massive drug addiction problem. In the “second wave,” which began with the influx of white powders around 2005, the state’s response was disappointing.

Medicines remain readily available

Cocaine, mephedrone, ecstasy are today as readily available as ice cream. The telephone numbers of the providers are in the public domain. Fast pace of life, lack of parental guidance due to long working hours can push children towards drug use. Despite several agencies following “the offer”, drugs remain readily available. Many parent groups, such as the Naga Mothers Association, have attempted to create a national movement against drug addiction.

Identify the first signs

Some early signs of drug use are irritability, red eyes, anger and violent behavior, weight loss, trouble sleeping, hallucinations, and paranoia. The first stop should be a friendly neighborhood psychiatrist or mental health therapist. The post-recovery period should be watched closely because you can “slip” again.

Steps that need to be taken

The sustainable availability of drugs should be verified. Awareness campaigns against drug addiction must be stepped up. The “daring” to organize rave parties reflects the fear of drug control agencies. According to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s ‘Magnitude of Substance Use in India 2019’ report, after alcohol (14.6% of the population), cannabis (around 2.8%) and opioids (almost 2.1%) are the next commonly used substances in India.

We need a massive “mental health movement” that includes the war on drug use. Schools must have a progressive policy in which the addicted child is seen as a victim and is supported. Children need to be instilled in life skills and taught yoga and mindfulness to lead healthy and productive lives.

Dr Harish Shetty is a psychiatrist. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.

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