HOW SERIOUS IS WAR ON DRUGS? Only 15 ATFs for rehabilitation of Kashmir’s 70,000 drug abusers

Drug abuse among youngsters has increased manifold with medicos blaming easy access to illicit drugs in Kashmir.
At the centre at least 150 drug addiction cases are received every day with 80 cases being new and 70 follow-up cases. [Representational Image]
At the centre at least 150 drug addiction cases are received every day with 80 cases being new and 70 follow-up cases. [Representational Image] File/ GK

Srinagar: For the rehabilitation of nearly 70,000 drug abusers in Kashmir division, there are only 15 Addiction Treatment Facilities (ATF) where counselling and other treatment facilities are provided to them.

The Ministry of Social Empowerment and Justice established these centres under a central scheme.

Drug abuse among youngsters has increased manifold with medicos blaming easy access to illicit drugs in Kashmir.

In Srinagar, a 15-bedded de-addiction center at SMHS Hospital treats patients with substance use disorders while other comorbid disorders are treated at IMHANS.

At the centre at least 150 drug addiction cases are received every day with 80 cases being new and 70 follow-up cases.

The periphery ATFs are run and monitored by AIIMS, Delhi and come under the Directorate of Health Services.

The de-addiction centre at SMHS is run by the Department of Psychiatry, GMC Srinagar.

These ATFs provide free treatment - detoxification and counselling to the patients dealing with substance use disorders.

These centres have been established in general hospital settings with the idea to de-stigmatise the population seeking help for substance use disorders.

As per the official data, more than 50,000 addicts are attended to in various ATFs and Oral Substitution Therapy (OST) clinics every month across J&K.

Regarding the number of drug addicts, who have given up drugs and live a normal life after going to such centres, doctors said they do not have the exact numbers as 50 percent of them relapse after coming to these centres.

“Even though remission rates in opioid dependence is less than 50 percent and relapse rates are high, treatment makes a huge difference in terms of mortality, morbidity, and co-morbidities,” Dr Arshad Hussain, a professor at IMHANS, told Greater Kashmir.

He said that rational scientific treatments, if sought and maintained, not only lower mortality but also improve quality of life and socio occupational functioning.

“Early treatment also decreases the rates particularly Hepatitis B, C, and HIV. Current treatment models have robust evidence for harm reduction. While our focus should continue on demand reduction in primary and primordial preventive models, we should also continue on making treatments of addiction available, accessible and affordable as secondary preventive measures,” Dr Hussain said.

According to experts, the relapses are part and parcel of this illness but Kashmir sees less relapses due to good family support.

They said that people do recover and give up drugs, especially in Kashmir compared to other places in the country.

“Here, patients have a family and social support. That is the reason why relapse cases are lesser than other states," the experts said.

Dr Yasir Hassan Rather, a professor at IMHANS, told Greater Kashmir that the numbers of de-addiction services in J&K are enough but there is a need to upgrade them.

"There are no IPD services in de-addiction service units in district hospitals. The rehabilitation centres also need long-term services for the patients. Like after recovery, they need psychosocial interventions, counselling, skill development, and other facilities," he said.

Dr Rather said that these centres need to integrate community rehabilitation along with their other facilities, which would provide after-care intervention and follow up on pharmacotherapy and reduce the stigma attached and help the person dealing with substance use disorders to reintegrate into society.

“If we compare J&K with other states, in terms of detox facilities we are way ahead but if we speak about rehabilitation centres where patients are admitted for long term so that holistic treatment in the form of psycho-social support is given, we have none in the government sector,” he said.

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