Tribune News Service
Amritsar, June 25
Staying sober under lockdown, with a raging pandemic outside, has been a battle that most in-recovery addicts from the city seem to have lost. While the Covid pandemic has thrown unique challenges for the healthcare professionals and people in general, for recovering substance abuse patients, the pandemic has become a reason to relapse and fall prey to the vicious cycle of addiction and mental health issues.
- Also read: International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking: Lockdown restrictions fail to dent drug business, smuggling in Amritsar
In 2019, Amritsar had become the first district in Punjab to launch Darpan, an online portal to reach out to those in the process of drug rehabilitation and de-addiction. In 2020, the lockdown and subsequent year long break in the process of treatment and healing, many have relapsed.
Mohinder Kaur, whose 20-year-old son had been addicted to synthetic drugs for past seven years, had begun his treatment in November 2019. A student of graduation at the time, Rahul (name changed) had also been suffering from mental breakdowns.
“Since he refused to get admitted, we continued his OPD treatment. Initially, he used to get counselling, along with medication and started showing results. But when Covid 19 hit, it broke the process of visits and counselling. Medication too did not help as his mental health deteriorated in lockdown. We do not know when he started using again but it’s been six months since we first knew that he has relapsed and started taking drugs again,” said Mohinder, who is a resident of Patti. Hers is not the only case.
Preeti (26) (name changed) from Tarn Taran, has been in the recovery mode for the past three years. Formerly addicted to heroin, she has been walking a tight rope ever since lockdown was imposed as the fear of her falling back into the trap always loomed. “The lockdown has been difficult for us as a family. I lost my father long time back and my mother and I are dependent on farm income. There have been several times during the last one-year period when I nearly relapsed and my mother had to put me on online counselling. My counselor also visited my home twice to make sure that I do not relapse. Drugs have been easily available for those who want it and so it is easy for addicts to lose their way.”
The initial lockdown last year happened so suddenly that several de-addiction programmes being run by administration and the Health Department got suspended. DAPO and Buddy programme too relied heavily on door-to-door reach out and visits. Though the medication for treatment was later revived by the administration through online portal, many recovering addicts relapsed as their medication cycle broke. “It’s a hard fact that many of the recovering addicts relapsed during initial lockdown as de-addiction centres, hospitals, providing treatment shut OPDs and no visitations were carried out. For many in recovery, mental health conditions worsened including anxiety, depression, mental breakdown that resulted in relapse. Withdrawal symptoms were quite high and with alcohol and drugs easily available even during lockdown, which disturbed the family system. It is a no brainer that those under treatment had easy excuse to resort to drugs again,” said Dr Aman Saluja, a clinical psychologist at Bhatia Drug De-addition Centre. Dr Saluja feels that it was a struggle for doctors to treat patients. “Online counseling doesn’t work like physical session or OPD treatment.
One cannot keep a track of the patient’s recovery process consistently and treat them accordingly. After re-opening for treatment, we had to start from scratch with our patients who had earlier been sober. It takes a long time to detoxify psychologically.”
Even OOAT (outpatient opioid-assisted treatment) clinics were also closed during lockdown.
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