Socio-environmental factors play an important role in their de-addiction journey and the doctors called for a joint effort from all the stakeholders
The exclusive de-addiction centre at Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai treats cases of alcoholism the most, according to doctors.
Funded by the Excise Department, the centre is a revamped project of the National Health Mission being run round-the-clock by the Department of Psychiatry at GRH.
“The centre is now equipped with two psychiatrists, two social workers, and two clinical psychologists treating anywhere between 30 and 35 new in-patients a month while tending to 15 to 20 out-patients per day for the past four months,” noted D. Kirupakara Krishnan, Assistant Professor of the Department.
Patients would first undergo detoxification treatment, then diagnosed for comorbidities and are provided liaison psychiatry treatment. “Addicts usually have affected heart, brain, lungs, liver, pancreas and kidney,” said V. Geetanjali, Professor at the Department.
Common types of patients include those in an intoxicated state while admitted, those suffering from withdrawal symptoms, and those highly dependent on the substances, she added.
The doctors noted that addiction to the smell of volatile substances is common among schoolchildren while addiction to tobacco and alcohol is prevalent among the age groups of 20 to 30, in which alcoholics are more.
Smoking weed is most prevalent between adolescents/young teens and people of age 30, which is the third highest category of cases treated at the centre. While older age groups are addicted to the over-the-counter sale of sedative drugs taken as self-medication due to age-related factors.
The reasons to become an addict include a family history of substance usage, due to curiosity, peer pressure and looking at it as a way of escaping reality, said doctors who added that most addicts are usually engaged in anti-social activities and are abusers at home which lead to family issues and financial crisis.
Dr. Krishnan noted that for every 100 patients they treat, only two are women who often are in advanced stages of addiction. “This only underlines the need to break the stigma around women seeking help as the low turnout doesn’t reflect the actual number of women addicts,” he added.
The doctors stated that it is common to see a spike in inflow of patients after festive seasons. “Similarly with the ongoing ‘Ayyappan season’ to end soon, we can expect a lot of patients seeking help as the withdrawal symptoms would have kicked in after a break from not intaking alcohol or smoking. It includes them being able to hear voices, developing anxiety and sometimes even result in fits,” noted Dr. Geetanjali.
A new lease of life
An average time of receiving treatment at the centre as an in-patient would be three weeks which would follow up with regular reviews and medication.
Through psycho-education and psycho-therapy patients would be helped to gain insight into the harmful effects of substance intake. Simultaneously, the family members or attenders of the patients are given counselling to cope with tackling their problems, strengthening their problem-solving and decision-making skills as in most cases they are “co-dependents of the patients.”
Group therapy is another successful method used at the centre where those who have recovered from addiction share their experiences of their de-addiction journey once in two weeks. “This helps to keep fellow recovered to stay motivated and prevent relapses,” said N. Deepa, Assistant Professor. Plans to collaborate with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to hold meetings are on the anvil, she added.
Dr. Geetanjali noted that patients are advised to stick to a strict follow-up routine since it is a “relapsing disorder.” Citing that the relapse ratio is also higher in such patients as socio-environmental factors play an important role in their de-addiction journey and the doctors called for a joint effort from all the stakeholders. Concurring to the point, GRH Dean A. Rathinavel noted the need for creating more awareness on the services of de-addiction centres and the harmful effects of drug usage.
The doctors said that many recovered patients voluntarily promise to refer the centre to their co-workers and friends. Well, they will be welcomed by a sapling planted by one of the recovered addicts as a token of gratitude at the entrance of the centre.