Why India needs more de-addiction centres

Jul 02, 2017 11:25 AM IST

There is a huge gap between demand for drug addiction treatment and facilities available for it, doctors at leading hospitals say.

New Delhi: India has to invest more in de-addiction and treatment facilities to control drug abuse.

A drug addict undergoing treatment at a hospital.((HT file photo))
A drug addict undergoing treatment at a hospital.((HT file photo))

“Most drug-control programmes focus on restricting the supply of illicit drugs. This is not enough. The focus has to shift to demand reduction by preventing addiction and providing more treatment facilities for addicts,” said Dr Atul Ambekar, additional professor at the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) at the India AIIMS.

He is a part of the national survey being conducted by the Union Social Justice and Empowerment ministry, which will gauge the extent of drug use and abuse at state level to help in formulating targeted policies.

“There is no data to quantify the shortage of treatment facilities, but the gap is huge. We need de-addiction centres in every nook and cranny of the country. With a little training, doctors from district hospitals and community health centres can provide basic treatment and drugs, with specialised cases being referred to higher centres like AIIMS,” Dr Ambekar said.

Agrees Dr Smita Deshpande, head of department of psychiatry at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia hospital: “There are only 4,000–4,500 psychiatrists in India and not all are involved in de-addiction treatment. That’s the kind of shortage we face. Clinical psychologists and counsellors are also scarce on ground.”

“Also, there no government-run long-stay homes for drug users and hospitals are forced to discharge patients within a couple of days of their withdrawal symptoms disappearing. Since the risk of relapse is very high once they go back to the same environment, we need long stay homes where drug users can be kept away from their fix,” she said.

Outpatient department trends shows the use of inhalants is the most common in children. “There has also been a rise in the number of people using cannabis, especially among college students,” said Dr Ambekar. Dr Deshpande added, “use of tobacco and alcohol, which is readily available is very common and is like a gateway to other drugs.”

More than 20,000 children use tobacco, more than 9,000 have alcohol, around 8,000 use inhalants and more than 5,000 use cannabis, show draft findings of an AIIMS study of street children in Delhi, with the age at which they start being 9 years.

This has led to the Delhi government adding 30 beds across 6 hospitals for the treatment of juvenile addicts.

According to the 2017 report by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 255 million people worldwide use illicit drugs, of which 29.5 million suffered from drug use-related disorders.


    Anonna Dutt is a health reporter at Hindustan Times. She reports on Delhi government’s health policies, hospitals in Delhi, and health-related feature stories.

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