KOCHI: Fr Alex J Vellappally, administrator of Peermade-based DARE De-addiction Centre gets at least 30 calls a month from across the state requesting him to accommodate drug addicts and more than 50 calls for treating alcoholics. Fr Vellappally is open to admitting more alcoholics, but is selective and careful when it comes to drug addicts because he knows they are generally more violent and handling them can be risky.
DARE, a licensed centre, functions under the Kerala Mental Health Authority (KMHA), but the proprietors of several illegal ones that have mushroomed in the state may not let go the chance. Such is the money involved. Unofficial figures say over 200 new alcohol and drug addicts, including women, seek admission to private de-addiction centres in the state every month. Though it has been brought to the notice of successive governments time and again, no concrete efforts have been taken so far to regulate those centres which lure drug and alcohol addicts offering easy recovery.
The addicts’ family members often fall easy prey to such centres agreeing to go any extend for treating their dear ones. Deaddiction centres charge a patient an amount in the Rs 12,000- Rs 20,000 range for a 30-day treatment. Fr Vellappally says it is high time the state government intervened and formulated a comprehensive policy to regulate the de-addiction centres’ functioning as the number of alcohol and drug addicts has grown exponentially in the past couple of years. “The government must ensure people are not taken for a ride in the name of treating addiction,” said Fr Vellappally.
There was a time, in the not too distant past, when Kerala would vie with Punjab for the mantle of the highest liquor-consuming state in the country. Now, the Punjab youth has moved on from liquor to drugs and is by far the home to the largest number of drug addicts in the country. Kerala, unknown to many, especially the state government, has taken the dangerous path, following in the footsteps of Punjab.
The menace has taken on such alarming proportions that over 200 unlicensed de-addiction centres have sprung up across the state. Clearly, the supply line of these centres has opened up as a response to a growing demand from the kith and kin of a burgeoning number of young drug addicts in the state. And an increasing number girls are getting sucked into this vortex of pills, powder and needle. Curiously, the Kerala Government is blissfully unaware of all this, still plodding along with archaic notions of addressing this growing danger. In a six-part series, Express Special Correspondent Ajay Kanth investigates.