CHANDIGARH: Due to the restriction of movements, drug peddling has decreased considerably in Punjab pushing addicts to queue up in front of Out-Patient Opioid Assisted Treatment (OOAT) centres for cure.
Ever since the lockdown began in March 23, about 26,000 new addicts have joined the OOAT centres in the state. Highly placed sources said that scarcity of drugs due to the coronavirus lockdown has forced drug addicts to get enrolled for treatment at government and private-run de-addiction centres.
The state health department had 4.14 lakh addicts registered with it (1.55 lakh at OOAT centres, 2.15 lakh in de-addiction centres and more than 30,000 in rehabilitation centres) before the lock down (till March 23). An increase of 26,000 new regisered addicts has taken the state figure to 4.40 lakh (till Tuesday). Ludhiana has the highest newly registered addicts (2600) followed by Moga (2,200), Mohali (1,800), Patiala (1,600) and Sangrur (1,300).
The price of drugs is all time high. The heroin, which was available for Rs 3,000 per gram before the lockdown, is now sold at Rs 12,000 per gram as the supply chain is broken.
Additional DGP-cum-Chief of Special Task Force on Drugs, Harpreet Singh Sidhu said, "The OOAT centres have been a game changer in the state and have greatly contributed to reducing demand for drugs. The medication dispensed has helped patients mange the withdrawal and come out of addiction. Owing to curfew as well as lockdown the supply chain of drugs has been further constricted. Due to non-availability of drugs, addicts are visiting drug de-addiction centres resulting in a significant increase in number of patients, which is a good sign," Sidhu said.
Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said a special campaign is being launched to register new patients under the Drug Addiction Programme. In just 21 days, some 26,000 patients have been registered. In case of non-availability of therapeutic services, the patient is likely to leave treatment which can be fatal for the patient. Considering the circumstances 'take home dose' is now extended for 21 days.
Sidhu further said that 198 OOAT clinics, 35 Government De-Addiction Centres and 108 Licensed private De-addiction centres have been allowed to give the dose of buprenorphine + naloxone drugs to registered patients after being evaluated by a psychiatrist.
The special campaign aims to register and cure the maximum number drug addicts. The village panchayats, social organizations and Youth Welfare Clubs were being approached to encourage such patients to come to their respective centres and clinics, the minister added.