Their eyes tell the story of their lives – the nightmare they have woken up from, the horror they can never forget, and the relief they are experiencing out of the fightback. At the drug and alcohol de-addiction centre run by the Society for Protection of Youth and Masses (SPYM) at Vasant Kunj, a group of 16, mostly young, but a few middle-aged men too, are sharing thoughts about their past, present and future.

One of them, Deepak, aged 22, shares with the group. “I began with alcohol and then graduated to smack. I realised I was in trouble when I got into a fight with my friends who also consumed these things and suffered several injuries. I first went to a private clinic. But conditions there were bad. There was much violence at that clinic and so I purchased drugs from a caretaker. I fled from there.”

But centres like SPYM with State-funding offering free services are few in Delhi – just five in number. There are several private drug rehab centres, some with even five-star facilities, but with no regulation of their activities, many of these are allegedly seeing blatant human rights violations. Dr. Rajesh, director of SPYM, says: “Delhi used to have at least 20 State-funded de-addiction centres earlier. But because of the poor funding, many of them have shut down. As a result, people from low-income groups have no access to de-addiction programmes. Unlike Delhi, the private clinics are regulated in Punjab and Haryana following the High Court intervention.”

The Union Ministry of Social Justice envisages that a de-addiction programme should last a minimum of one month, but social workers say that addicts have a good chance of kicking their habits through a 90-day programme.

SPYM runs a 15-bed de-addiction centre at Vasant Kunj and Dakshinpuri, another for juveniles at the Sewa Kutir complex at Kingsway Camp, for beggars at Lampur, and for injection-drug users at Kotla Mubarakpur.

“There is a first phase of detoxification that lasts between three and ten days. Then follows a rehabilitation programme where they stay at the centre for two to three months. After this, we link them to support groups like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous which ensures that they do not relapse,” Dr. Rajesh says.

Every inmate who comes to the SPYM centre has to give his consent before he is admitted. Once the inmates come out of detoxification phase, they go through a daily regimen that helps to inculcate discipline and order into their chaotic lives. “The activities at the centre start at seven in the morning and go on until ten at night, when the lights are turned off. The regimen includes meditation, yoga, TV watching, discussions, personalised and group counselling sessions,” says chief counsellor Franklin Lazarus, who himself was a drug and alcohol user for 27 years until he successfully underwent a reformation several years back. “I tell them the problems I underwent with all honesty and they are able to relate to me quickly. They do not realise that what they have is a disease which is curable. But as the treatment progresses they gain confidence that they will recover.”

While alcoholics face a greater chance of relapse, they are prescribed a pill called antiabuse to help them stay off drinking. In the case of drug users, a medicine freely distributed by NACO (National Aids Control Organisation), buprenorphine, is prescribed as part of oral-substitution therapy.

“At the SPYM facility at Kotla Mubarakpur where the density of injected drug users is high, we prescribe buprenorphine, and progressively reduce the dosage. Once the dosage is down to the minimum level, many of them communicate to us that they are ready to come to the rehab,” Dr. Rajesh says.

Nitesh Kumar, a coordinator at SPYM, said the problems at Kotla Mubarakpur, where he estimates the presence of around 800 injection-drug users, centre round the easy availability of over-the-counter drugs from medical shops. “Sometimes they even make deadly cocktails of medical drugs. There is absolutely no monitoring of the problem. We have been motivating the addicted persons to not share syringes as this is causing the spread of HIV among them,” says Nitesh.

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