Srinagar: By treating drug addiction like any other ailment, the new drug de-addiction policy will encourage drug abusers to seek help without the fear of stigma associated with it.
The draft drug de-addiction policy, which was made public on Friday for feedback from stakeholders, proposes that drug de-addiction centers should be integrated with main hospitals to de-stigmatise the treatment usually administered at centres established in isolation from major health institutions.
This integration model, the policy states, buds from experiences with diseases like tuberculosis and leprosy, which also have stigma associated with them, because the healthcare system treated these in “satellite facilities” separated from main hospital settings.
This new model of treating cases of drug abuse makes de-addiction part of the total healthcare system across districts, a senior healthcare expert said.
“We learnt the lesson that isolation leads to increased stigmatisation and feelings of shame and exclusion, which makes treatment difficult, let alone eradicating the disease,” notes the draft policy.
It calls for integration of de-addiction facilities “not just functionally but geographically also”.
Noting that the “enormity” of the problem can be gauged from the fact that those seeking help themselves or because of their families only represent the “tip of the iceberg”, the policy states that “we have a huge hidden population of substance users in the community that do not come to fore for myriad reasons, taboo and stigma being the primary reasons”.
The policy also focuses on prevention of substance abuse rather than dealing solely with de-addiction. It calls for stricter enforcement of the already existing laws and enactment of more stringent laws. It highlights “rampant misuse of prescription medications and reckless sale of medication with psychoactive properties at medical shops” and demands action on this front.
The policy lays emphasis on creating awareness about the effects of substance abuse and involvement of stakeholders at all levels in prevention strategies. The integrative system, experts argue, would also be more sustainable as existing human resource and laboratories in hospitals could be utilised.
In addition, this model, where the healthcare system is geared up with skills needed for the “epidemic of drugs” would also cater to the ever increasing emergencies like “overdose, withdrawal complications and other medically co-morbid conditions associated with substance abuse”.
“With the integrative model of de- addiction centers, consultations for co-morbid medical conditions and referrals for emergency conditions can be made, hence treating the patient in whole rather than in parts,” experts have said.
The policy aims at increasing access to out-patient services like motivational therapies, detoxification and mental health conditions associated with substance abuse and in-patient services for complicated withdrawals, multiple relapses and emergencies. The system will have adequate support of laboratories for diagnosis, referrals to other specialty clinics, and pharmacy, reads the policy document. The policy will be finalised after feedback from stakeholders and would be then placed before the State Administrative Council for clearance.