With an unprecedented increase in new addiction cases, the district is grappling with rehabilitation of addicts, as there are just 10 authorised centres run by NGOs that are inadequate to handle the numbers.
Inordinate delay in the establishment of a government-run de-addiction centre has further added to the problem. Though the state health department had planned to set up de-addiction centres simultaneously in all districts in 2011, the one for Ludhiana is hanging fire.
Meanwhile, city psychiatrists are perturbed over the increase in number of addicts in the age group of 15 to 25 years, who are hooked to smack, cocaine, heroin, cannabis and various Schedule H drugs, which are dispensed by local chemists without a prescription by medical practitioners.
Amanjeet Singh, president of Punjab State Drug Counselling and Rehabilitation Centres Union, emphasised upon the need of an integrated survey by the state government. He said, "It is important to control the peddlers and unabated availability and sale of narcotics and schedule H drugs, which is taking its toll on the state's youth. The problem has increased manifold in last one decade."
Singh, who is also the chairperson of NGO Growth Foundation, said the NGO had registered 62 addicts in 2008, which increased to 89 in 2009, further to 121 in 2010, 157 in 2011, 189 in 2012, while the figure was already 119 as of July 2013.
Meanwhile, the District Health Society taking into account the gravity of the problem conceived an idea to set up a de-addiction and rehabilitation centre under the Red Cross Society. But owing to the moratorium on Red Cross for non-issuance of funds except for medicines, the project despite the submission of the detailed project report is yet to take off.
Therefore, to contribute towards the cause, district health authorities appointed Dr Gurpratap Singh, psychiatrist at Lord Mahavira Civil Hospital, to study the model of a de-addiction centre functioning in Bathinda, which has already submitted a detailed project report to the district administration.
An old building of Red Cross near civil hospital will be renovated to set up the de-addiction and rehabilitation centre and an estimated amount of Rs. 15 lakh is required for the same. But the question remains where will the funds come from? The state government will not shell out any money for this project, as it is planning to set up its own centre.
The monthly overheads to run the centre include estimated salaries of Rs. 50,000 for five regular staff members and Rs. 25,000 for running expenses. Adopting a pro-active approach, the members of District Health Society have roped in gurdwaras for arrangement of food for the inmates and are already on the job to rope in some philanthropist industrialists for creating a "special corpus fund" to run the centre. The civil surgeon office has also agreed to provide three to four employees for various duties at the centre.
Dr Gurpratap Singh said, "The project is feasible if we rope in philanthropists as the refinery in Bathinda is funding the de-addiction and rehabilitation centre in Talwandi Sabo. I, along with my colleague, Dr Sudha, also a psychiatrist at civil hospital, will supervise the centre in addition to providing clinical support."
Dr Rajiv Gupta, a city-based psychiatrist, pointed towards an alarming trend in the young addicts that had surfaced in recent years. "Boys and girls are no more using gateway addictions like smoking and alcohol, but are straightaway getting hooked to cocaine, heroine, smack and cannabis, which takes their level of addiction to higher levels in a short span, and makes de-addiction very difficult. Moreover, there is no class distinction as youth from every strata irrespective of the resources is coming with the above addictions which are unaffordable for middle/lower income groups," added Dr Gupta.
Steps you can take
Keep the addicts aloof in confinement for first one month.
Confiscate addict's mobile phone, so as to disengage them from misleading company.
Change the mobile number.
Do not leave the addict alone for a long time.
Emphasise on professional counselling.