Till about two months ago, Deepak (surname withheld on request) would escape to his bathroom every hour to inject himself with Fortwin in his thigh.
Deepak, 37, was addicted to alcohol and Fortwin, an opium based painkiller prescribed to him after a surgery in 2006.
Deepak injected himself with up to 20 ampoules a day, and the skin around his thigh had developed abscesses. Long-term abuse of the painkiller can lead to heart disease and an overdose could cause respiratory depression or even death.
Two months ago, Deepak, who works in a consultancy firm, was found unconscious in the office bathroom after he took a deadly cocktail of sleeping pills and Fortwin. His employer gave him three months to sober up and sent him to KEM Hospital, Parel.
Doctors put Deepak on Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) programme as part of a national trial to wean addicts off the use of opioids, which are opium-based drugs. Seven other patients are part of the trial in Mumbai.
The biggest problem addicts face when they stop taking opioids is dealing with the withdrawal symptoms, which could include insomnia, muscle ache, cramps, nausea and vomiting.
As part of the programme, patients are given methadone, a syrup which also contains opium derivatives, under medical supervision. Methadone blocks the opioid receptors in the brain for an entire day, thus reducing withdrawal and cravings without providing a ‘high’.
When a patient stops craving the drug, he no longer indulges in high-risk behaviour such as peddling or sharing needles. “He does not risk infections such as HIV. He is more amenable to other changes in his life and counselling,” said Dr Shubangi Parkar, academic dean, KEM Hospital.
“Methadone can be prescribed for a long period as it has few side effects. Once the patient is better adjusted, they can be weaned off methodone too,” said Dr Shilpa Adarkar, in-charge of the de-addiction centre at KEM Hospital.
Deepak now goes to KEM hospital every day for his methadone dose. “I no longer crave Fortwin or alcohol,” said Deepak, who started treatment on April 7.