New Delhi: An animated
discussion on self-control and inner strength is under way in an
air-conditioned cottage tucked away inside a plush south Delhi
farm. The group includes people from the US, Canada, Oman as well
as from Southeast Asia and all have one thing in common - they
were till recently 'narcotics-induced psychotics'.
The intense group discussion among the participants, who till
recently were hooked to marijuana or cannabis, followed weeks of
detoxification and psychiatric treatment and was part of their
social rehabilitation process.
Soon they would leave Delhi for their homes, but not before having
spent anything like Rs.2 to 3 lakh ($3,500-5,400) for a three
month work-up at the Tulasi Health Care centre that has two
centres in Mehrauli and Mandi in south Delhi.
"In Bangkok, a 28-day treatment programme costs $10,000," Gorav
Gupta, senior psychiatrist and the force behind Tulasi, told IANS.
This is a form of medical tourism too, but the problem of drug
de-addiction is one that runs deep in India.
As per the 2006 report of the National Survey on Extent, Pattern
and Trends of Drug Abuse in India, an estimated 75 million Indians
are drug addicts.
In Delhi, there are about two dozen rehabilitation centres for
narcotics-induced psychosis, as drug dependence patients are
referred to, including both in government and private hospitals
and NGO-run centres. Poor quality rehabilitation after medical
treatment in the government sector has however created a huge
demand for private initiatives.
"Social rehabilitation is our USP. The government hospitals and
centres offer medical treatment but leave a lot on the individual
to re-integrate with society," said Gupta, adding that they treat
drug-dependence as a brain disease.
Other private centres and hospitals, like Apollo, are also sought
after and are showing the way forward.
Ruchika Kumari, an administrator with a private de-addiction
centre in south Delhi, revealed that most patients under their
care were aged between 20 and 35 years.
"For a patient who consumes heroin or cannabis worth
Rs.1,000-1,500 a day, a private hospital's rehabilitation package
is not unaffordable," she said.
Elite centres like Tulasi, which also get high-end patients from
Delhi as well as other states, cater to a fraction of the segment.
At the other end of the spectrum are the inmates of Delhi's Tihar
About 8-10 percent of Tihar's 12,000 inmates are addicts. Tihar
Jail boasts of, perhaps, the city's biggest de-addiction set-up
with 150 beds. At any given time about 1,000 drug-dependent
inmates are being treated.
"Till the time the patient is in jail, we help him emerge out of
the problem. But once his term ends, we can't control the
rehabilitation process or prevent a relapse," said Sunil Gupta,
the public relations officer.
The Tihar Jail de-addiction facility, which achieved an ISO
9001:2000 quality certification in 2009, is among the best in the
city but not open to private people.
So the poor have to go to government hospitals.
Said a de-addiction specialist from Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital,
who did not want to be named: "The poor people come to government
hospitals. The rich who want to maintain secrecy about their
de-addiction prefer the high-end private facilities."
Interestingly, there are very few cocaine users among
narcotics-induced psychosis patients in Delhi's rehabilitation
"Cocaine is a costly narcotic. People who can afford it can even
afford to sustain the abuse for long," said Anuj Wadhera, a
Delhi-based detoxification and rehabilitation expert.
Gorav Gupta, who also runs an OPD for poor narcotics-dependent
patients from a centre in central Delhi, said that he uses medical
intervention along with psychotherapy.
The treatment includes group and individual counselling - coupled
with group interactions through activities like table tennis,
badminton, recreation and family counselling.
"Our focus is to heal their minds and help get over social stigma
and trauma," he said.
"We don't treat them as drug addicts. For us, they are like any
patient suffering from a brain ailment," said Gorav Gupta.
According to a 2007 manual prepared by the drug dependence
treatment centre at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS),
a majority of heroin addicts relapse within the first year of
treatment, most within the first three months.
"This is why rehabilitation is significant and private centres
stand out by checking relapse," said Wadhera.
(Rahul Chhabra can be contacted at email@example.com)