There is a crying need for de-addiction centres in Andhra Pradesh

Amid growing cases of drug abuse, the dearth of quality de-addiction and rehabilitation centres across the state seems to be only making matters worse

January 27, 2023 07:28 am | Updated 10:13 am IST

The number of cases of drug addiction is increasing by the year, say the experts

The number of cases of drug addiction is increasing by the year, say the experts | Photo Credit: V RAJU

What started as a harmless whiff has turned into a tornado that devasted Avinash’s (name changed) life. He slogged to get admission into one of India’s premier technology colleges but had to drop out because his drug addiction could no longer let him be himself. His parents, both high-ranking government officers from Visakhapatnam, joined him in a private college through the management quota, paying a huge fee Avinash couldn’t continue there either.

Rajesh (name changed), a 28-year-old software engineer hailing from Tirupati never fell prey to drugs as a student. But the vice caught up to him when he joined an MNC in Bengaluru. His parents smelled something fishy when he refused to come home to Tirupati even though he opted to work from home during the COVID pandemic. An unannounced visit to this flat in Bengaluru gave them the shock of their lives. He, along with a group of his friends, was found to be in an intoxicated condition after consuming drugs.

While Avinash’s parents are still in search of a good de-addiction centre with an in-house facility to join him, Rajesh’s parents admitted him to the Deaddiction Center at SVRR Government Hospital. After a month-long treatment, Rajesh managed to get his life together, but only after paying a hefty price—he lost his dream job.

“We get a good number of cases from Bangalore and other metropolises. They are mostly from the combined Chittoor district working in MNCs. At present, we have a 15-bed facility, though we treat over 40 cases in a month,” Medical Officer (Deaddiction Center, SVRR) R. Manasa told The Hindu

As per the 2022 census, the Deaddiction centre at SVRR itself had treated more than 890 cases of alcoholism, 1056 cases of tobacco addiction, 53 cannabis addiction, 12 cocaine addiction and hundred other cases under various kinds of drug and behavioral addictions.

Many cases of minors consuming addictive drugs have been reported across the Vijayawada region as well, say the officials.

“We are getting frequent cases of minors taking to alcohol, ganja and smoking. The children were referred to different CCIs, but there are no qualified counsellors and de-addiction centres around,” says Krishna District Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Chairperson, K. Suvartha.

The facts suggest that there is no denying that the usage of drugs is on the rise and the dearth of quality de-addiction and rehabilitation centres across the state seems to be only making matters worse.

Dearth of quality deaddiction centres

There are about 29 to 30 deaddiction centres in the State and most of them are funded by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Even the State Government runs a few centres. In Visakhapatnam, apart from a couple of NGOs, there are two centres one each at the King George Hospital and at the Government Hospital for mental healthcare.

All have in-patient facilities, but there is a shortage of trained staff and the required facilities. For treating addicts, there is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), and people should be trained to handle the cases, as per the SOP, says Prof. NN Raju.

It was observed that many software engineers hailing from the combined Chittoor district are forced to approach the Tirupati centre due to the heavy costs involved in de-addiction treatments in the private sector.

Ramachandraiah, a parent from Puttur, whose son is getting treated for ganja addiction at SSVR, stresses the need for new deaddiction centres in the southern part of the State. “Deaddiction centres need to be started in the neighbouring districts of Tirupati. Patient congestion and thin staffing at this centre is leading to poor results.”

A senior police officer in Chittoor says that though a de-addiction centre was started in Chittoor in recent years, it went defunct later. “If it is made operational, it will reduce the load on the Tirupati center,” he says.

“Non-availability of de-addiction centres has become a problem for us. The NGOs, police and parents produce drug addicts who are minors before the CWC and we send them to other districts for treatment ”Chandragiri Radha KumarCWC member

“Non-availability of de-addiction centres has become a problem for us. The NGOs, police and parents produce drug addicts who are minors before the CWC and we send them to other districts for treatment,” says CWC member Chandragiri Radha Kumar

Need for combined effort

The approach to the problem is multi-disciplinary. It should be a combined effort of the law enforcing agencies, medical fraternity, parents and teachers at school and colleges, Dr. N.N. Raju says.

Today, ganja is freely available in Visakhapatnam as it is illegally cultivated in a few mandals of the Alluri Sitarama Raju district. Though much of the cultivation is curtailed, it is still traded without any hindrances.

It is learnt that ganja is exported from Visakhapatnam and in exchange, various synthetic drugs such as MDMA. Ecstasy, Molly, LSD and cocaine, are finding their way into different parts of the State.

The Visakhapatnam City Police and the CTF (City Task Force) have busted many cases in which drugs including high-end ones were sourced through the dark web or reputed courier services or e-commerce sites.

“Our goal has been to cut the supply chain by going beyond arresting the peddlers. We have been successful and in 2022 out of the 598 arrests, over 220 were arrested from other states,” says Commissioner of Police Ch. Srikanth.

As per the excise enforcement work in the Chittoor district, as many as 450 cases were registered in 2022, with the arrest of 585 accused.

Cult image syndrome

One could list a number of reasons for the increase in drug abuse among the youth. But two factors stand out. One, the easy accessibility to various types of drugs and two, the ‘cult image syndrome’ mostly seen among the students, says Prof. Dr. N.N. Raju, President of the Indian Indian Psychiatric Society.

Elaborating on the ‘Cult image’ syndrome, Dr. N.N. Raju says, “There are many cases where a student was enticed to try a drug, just to be part of a cult. From one trial shot, they all landed up being addicts.”

And the dangerous factor is that many of them, to fund their addictions, have turned into peddlers, and we have arrested quite a few of them, and many turned out to be students of reputed colleges and universities, says Mr. Srikanth.

As per the experts, the usage of drugs is rising but it is not alarming yet and can be curbed. But the critical factor is the setting up and operation of de-addiction and rehab centres, as desired.

As of now, we are receiving at least 15 cases of addicts who are in the third stage, which is called the chronic stage, every month, a number to ponder upon, says Ms. Uma Raju of Green Valley Foundation, an NGO engaged in de-addiction and rehab of drug and alcohol addicts.

On the other hand, spending quality time with children is also crucial and parents and teachers should take it up proactively. They should observe the behavioural changes and approach them with an open mind, even before they (youngsters) come to their fold, says Prof. MVR Raju, Head of the Department, Psychology, Andhra University.


There is a steady increase in the addicts with every passing year

Availability of drugs freely and cult image syndrome playing a key factor in the rise in cases

Almost every district has at least one de-addiction and rehab centre but they lack trained staff and infrastructure

Change in behaviour should be observed by parents and teachers and the issue should be addressed immediately

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