Aim to contain harmful effects such as hepatitis C and HIV

Faced with increasing intravenous drug (IV) abuse among the urban youth, sometimes resulting in overdose deaths, the State government is all set to start an oral substitution therapy centre at the Government Medical College Hospital here to help addicts gradually rid themselves of their drug habits.

At least two IV overdose deaths, involving the abuse of heroin, were reported in the city this year. One was that of a 21-year-old polytechnic student who was found dead at his house.

The varying potency of heroin available on the street often caused death due to inadvertent overdose. “Cocktailing” of buprenorphine, a highly restricted and powerful analgesic often used as a relatively cheap substitute for heroin, with other pain killers available off the shelf, was another cause.

Mohan Roy, a member of the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry, who is heading the project, said specially trained clinicians at the centre would supervise the programme.

The centre’s primary aim was to contain the harmful effects of IV drug abuse, chiefly hepatitis C and HIV. The National Aids Control Organisation is supporting the project.

Quoting a survey of IV drug abuse pattern in the State, Mohan Roy said the average age of first use of potent narcotics was 19. Law enforcers said drug-overdose deaths were rarely reported to the police. Drug addicts loathed public attention. They feared it would disrupt their supply lines, prompt peddlers to increase the street price of narcotics or worse, disappear all together, forcing them to face painful withdrawal effects or seek refuge in de-addiction centres.