The menace of drug abuse is alarmingly on the rise in Assam. The increasing number of de-addiction and rehabilitation centres in the city of Guwahati over the years bears testimony to this fact.
What is more disturbing is the fact that over the years there is a steady rise in female addicts in the State as well as the Northeast.
With the growing number of female addicts, Asha Bhawan, a rehabilitation centre is now planning to open a ‘ladies home’ exclusively. Currently they run a rehabilitation centre with free services which accommodates 40 to 50 males. The professionals have pointed out that when it comes to substance abuse it cuts across social standing, economic status, age and now gender as well.
“One of the main roadblocks in this regard is the lack of female counsellors who are willing to work on this issue as there is a social stigma attached to it,” said Rohan Rana, service provider at Nirman Rehabilitation Facility. Currently, they provide treatment to males of 18 years and above and have a capacity to accommodate 35 people in their centre.
In the past years, the de-addiction centres provided rehabilitation facilities to males mostly but now they also receive enquiries regarding females, both Kripa Foundation and Nirmaan Rehabilitation Facility revealed. It is also to be noted that these enquiries are mostly for minors, especially of 16-17 years.
Most of the drug abuse victims in the de-addiction centres fall in the wide age group of 16 to 60 years. At the Mashwara centre run by North East Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (NESPYM), there is a capacity for 15 people and they are all males.
On the other hand, Kripa Foundation provides treatment for around 32 male patients at present. Among them, approximately 50 per cent are alcoholics and the rest are drug addicts dependent on heroin, pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana, said Deebjot Singh, project director, Kripa Foundation. Now ‘party drugs’ are also making inroads into Guwahati, Singh noted.
“The government policies should be more humane. Instead of treating it as a criminal offence, it should be considered a health issue,” Singh added. There are no government initiatives yet to keep a check on the consumption level.
Alcoholism is rampant in the State which in turn generates huge revenue. In the financial year 2016-17, there was a 21 per cent rise in revenue through sale of alcohol. Moreover, 7.8 per cent of the population in the State is addicted to narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, according to reports.
Due to the proximity of the North-east region to the Golden Triangle – the tri-junction of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos – it is one of the worst-affected areas. The geographical location and accessibility to drugs plays a crucial role with Assam being a transit point and the gateway to other northeastern states.
“Many communities in the State have traditionally used local brews for ritualistic or religious purposes. These drinks are not for addiction but people have developed a ‘social acceptance’ for it. Although a community-based assessment is difficult, the number of people coming in to the de-addiction centres is certainly rising,” said Dr. Chiranjeev Kakoty, Director, NESPYM.