Tough, but addicts will find way to drugs; Will Punjab get rid of narcotic?
After an initial phase of hectic activity following the takeover by the Congress government, the anti-drug mission seems to have settled into a new balance. Today it might be at a slightly lower level, but the availability of drugs for whoever wants it, and the desperation of addicts, continues essentially unchanged over the past year.
Parminder Kaur, in charge of the SAKET Red Cross De-Addiction Centre in Patiala, which is funded by the Central government, says the number of patients reporting daily at the OPD in the centre is about 60, and the monthly admission rate of addicts at the centre is 50-60. What is of concern is that around half the cases are of heroin addiction.
In 2017, there was a sudden rush of patients at the centre for a while; such that they even had to keep addicts in waiting. But now the flow is back to what it was a few years ago. Though, in all, an estimated 400 people undergo treatment at the six government and several private drug de-addiction centres across the district every month. An employee at the SAKET centre says addicts find it difficult to give up drugs. They need regular psychiatric sessions, which not all of them are able to get. Many become clean in the hospital, but get back to drugs when they return to their home environment.
Shift to milder drugs
Some of the addicts in Patiala that The Tribune spoke to say there is some difficulty now in procuring drugs, but they are able to manage it somehow. And when they can’t get drugs like heroin, they opt for alternatives such as pills, or even alcohol.
Data at de-addiction centres shows the majority of addicts are in the age group of 16 to 35, habituated to different kinds of drugs. Their reasons for taking to drugs vary from unemployment, to bad company, to even love, but the consequences are equally miserable.
One of the addicts who has been admitted in a private centre by his family thrice says someone on drugs will somehow manage to arrange it, even if in smaller quantities and for higher prices. “After staying in the centre for a year at a stretch I had quit drugs completely. However, when I returned home, I could not resist the temptation as there were many youngsters in my village into drugs.” He now drinks liquor mostly because of the increased police vigil, taking smack once in a while.
Police see improvement
The police, of course, claim the situation is much improved. SP (Investigations), Patiala, Harvinder Singh Virk says the change has come from a major crackdown on peddlers. There is a shift from drug peddling to trade in illegal liquor. A total of 528 cases were registered under the NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act) Act in 2017, out of which 133 were of commercial use of drugs and 395 of non-commercial use.
Police data shows the average age of peddlers dealing in small quantities is below 30 years, while that of smugglers handling large quantities is above 45. Most small peddlers are addicts, who start doing it to pay for their own addiction. Virk says that awareness drives have helped encourage around 50,000 people in Patiala district to register under the Drug Abuse Prevention Officer programme.
Some jobless, some loveless
Data at de-addiction centres shows the majority of addicts are in the age group of 16 to 35, habituated to different kinds of drugs.
Their reasons for taking to drugs vary from unemployment to bad company, to even heartbreak.
Addicts find it difficult to give up drugs. They need regular psychiatric sessions, which not all of them are able to get.