Lockdown effect: Drug supply dries up, addicts rush to Punjab OOAT clinics
SEEKING MEDICATION: Bathinda district sees tenfold jump in number of drug dependents getting registered at these centres since curfew was imposed in the state on March 23Updated: Mar 30, 2020 23:54 IST
The number of drug addicts with withdrawal symptoms visiting at the government-run outpatient opiod assisted treatment (OOAT) centres in Punjab has gone up considerably due to non-availability of drugs in the wake of the lockdown imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
In Bathinda district alone, 151 new addicts got themselves registered with the OOAT centres since March 23 when curfew was imposed in Punjab. Similarly, 320 new drug addicts visited the outpatient department (OPD) of the Bathinda civil hospital’s psychiatry department during this period.
Dr Arun Bansal, a psychiatrist at the city’s civil hospital, said the number of addicts getting registered at the OOAT centres has seen around tenfold jump. “Earlier, nearly 20 new addicts used to get registered at these centres in a week. Also, the number of addicts at the civil hospital’s psychiatry OPD has doubled as only around 20 new patients used come before,” he said.
The district has six OOAT centres.
In Amritsar and Tarn Taran districts too, there was a surge in the number of patients coming to these clinics to get medicines.
Dr PD Garg, professor at the department of psychiatry of the Government Medical College (GMC), Amritsar, said, “Before the curfew, 90 addicts used to visit the OOAT centre situated on the GMC premises daily. The count increased by 122% as 200 people, including drug dropouts, visited the clinic on Monday.”
“Also, new drug dependents are approaching the OOAT centre. The addicts develop abnormal symptoms when their bodies do not get drugs. To control the craving in the absence of drugs, they are forced to take medicines,” Dr Garg added.
He said they also registered an increase in the number of patients visiting other 9 OOAT clinics in the district.
Doctors are also ensuring timely supply of medicines to the Swami Vivekananda Drug De-addiction and Rehabilitation Centre, Amritsar, to treat drug addicts amid the lockdown.
“All 10 OOAT centres in the district are operational even amid the lockdown. Drug addicts can show their medical slips to the police personnel to reach the centres amid the curfew,” said Amritsar civil surgeon Dr Prabhdeep Kaur Johal.
The stockist who supplies buprenorphine and nalaxone to OOAT centres in nearly 10 districts has enough stock of these medicines for next two months, Dr Johal said.
In Tarn Taran, the worst drug-hit district of Punjab, there was a huge rush of drug dropouts as well as new drug dependents in all 10 OOAT centres.
“An average 4,350 addicts are visiting the 10 OOAT centres In Tarn Taran district for medication against nearly 4,000 people before,” said Dr Jaspreet Singh, medical officer, Bhagupur rehabilitation centre.