‘Drug users, alcoholics need more help during crisis like Covid’
Kohima, June 25 (EMN): People around the world have been badly affected by the Covid-induced lockdown but drug users and alcoholics are said to be suffering more due to lack of support system.
On the occasion of International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which is observed every year on June 26 to create awareness on the harmful effects of drugs and to determine a society free of drug abuse, Eastern Mirror spoke to Director of Kripa Foundation, Abou Mere to unravel drug abuse and alcoholism scenario in the state during the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Whenever any sort of crisis comes, like lockdown this time, alcohol and drug flow is limited and price goes up. To access alcohol or drugs become difficult, that is when drug users and alcoholics come forward to take help. That is why in such times, they found a lot of people seeking help,’ Mere observed.
He, however, stated that it is “very difficult” to speak on such situation because “state government has not done any study (annually) or did surveillance on the issue”.
“During this (second wave) lockdown, men in uniform (police personnel) have undergone lots of drug and alcohol withdrawal,” Mere said.
Accordingly, rehabilitation centres in the state are providing help to few individuals who come forward seeking help. Even Kripa Foundation treatment cum rehabilitation centre is still taking new admissions, provided they produce Covid negative result. It is also providing Opioid Substitution Therapy to drug users to manage their withdrawal.
In the first phase of lockdown, the NGOs did not know how to go about it. As a result, many drug users and alcoholic had suffered a lot’. But after the experience in the first wave, Mere said, they prepared and somehow were able to improve their service to those who need help.
Yet, some of the chronic cases, particularly, alcoholics who experience hallucinations or alcohol seizure, rehabilitation centres are unable to admit them due to non availability of full time doctors and nurse, he said, adding that such people require special attention and 24×7 observation.
‘Again, Naga Hospital Authority Kohima, which is the only government facility with de-addiction service, has been converted into Covid hospital. So, the hospital stopped taking any admission for alcoholics and drug users. As a result, poor family members are having a hard time to get their detoxification in private hospitals,’ Mere said.
“Since they don’t have other facilities, they have to go through physical and mental trauma not only by the patients alone but by the family as well,” he added.
‘State government should step in’
The main drawback is ‘we have substance abuse policy in place but the state government has not provided any budgetary to implement the policy’. If there is a “budgetary”, Health department or NGOs can provide help to those in need but without it, “we have our own limitations”, Mere said.
As for the present support system, he said, they are getting support from Nagaland State Aids Control Society and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. However, that is not sufficient because the problem is huge and budget is “very little”.
“Since health is a state subject, state should own the ownership of the problem and try to solve the problem rather than just depend on the NGOs to mobilise fund from here and there to help our citizens,” he said.
Therefore, support from the state government, political will and action, and their leadership is required. Government is not providing anything as of now, Mere informed.
Churches, schools, society asked to intervene
The director observed that churches, youth resources, schools (Education department) and society as a whole need to play a major role in primary prevention.
He specifically appealed to the churches in Nagaland to come forward and help drug users and alcoholics.
‘Almost all Nagas are Christians and drug users or alcoholics are part of some churches. When churches help fellow Nagas, directly or indirectly they are helping their own church members. They should not just give all the responsibilities to the NGOs,’ he said.
Drug addiction is a disease; it is a psycho social problem and is also a family disease, he said, adding that family support is crucial as it doesn’t just affect the individual who drinks or use drugs but also affects the whole family.
According to the 2021 World Drug Report recently released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, around 275 million people use drugs worldwide, while over 36 million people suffer from drug use disorders.