Mystery over fall in drug abuse cases

Experts suggest possibility of use of prescription drugs by addicts

A 22-year-old recently walked into the outpatient wing of a de-addiction centre being run under the Vimukthi programme of the Excise Department at Muvattupuzha with a strange demand.

He wanted a prescription for nitrazepam tablets, a psychotropic drug mostly prescribed for disorders like anxiety and insomnia, claiming that he was a psychiatric patient.

“He was at best vague when asked about the absence of his parents and medical records. From what little we could gauge, there was nothing that warranted the drug and when an alternative drug was suggested, he simply walked away,” said Faris Basheer, Medical Officer at the centre.

The incident, experts feel, was indicative of the probability of drug abusers turning towards psychotropic drugs as a substitute for more common drug like ganja during the lockdown period.

“Or else, drug abusers have found alternative sources to keep the supply in tact despite the lockdown. Either way, there has been a mysterious fall in the number of cases reported at de-addiction centres since the lockdown compared to what it was before it,” said Shijo Antony, a counsellor under the Vimukthi programme.

The incident in which 21 kilograms of ganja were seized from a pickup van in Thrissur earlier this month while being smuggled in in the guise of transporting essential items from Andhra Pradesh exposed the extent to which drug traffickers could go to be in business.

Not many calls

Before the lockdown, between 30 and 40 drug abuse cases involving mostly youngsters aged between 17 and 22 were reported at these centres in a month. While the tele-counselling service of the Excise Department was flooded with calls from alcoholics seeking respite from withdrawal symptoms, not many calls were received from drug abusers, which authorities found very suspicious.

“That we were expecting more calls from drug abusers with withdrawal symptoms is a fact. But we cannot jump into conclusions before a detailed analysis post-lockdown,” said A.S. Ranjith, Deputy Excise Commissioner, Ernakulam.

Meanwhile, All Kerala Chemists and Druggists Association ruled out any spurt in the sale of psychotropic drugs since the lockdown. “In fact, sales at medical shops are now largely restricted to drugs for lifestyle diseases since the lockdown. Besides, we never sell psychotropic drugs without latest prescriptions,” said A.N. Mohan, State president of the association.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 3:08:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/mystery-over-fall-in-drug-abuse-cases/article31595575.ece

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