Rehabilitation or Debilitation?

The spreading menace of drug addiction in the 21st century has given rise to a parallel trade which is perhaps as illegal as the drug market itself. These are the rehabilitation centers that are sprouting up like mushrooms on a damp rotten log. These rehabilitation centers promise to cure drug addiction and bring back the addict to the mainstream from which he has been cut off for a long period of time.

Ideally a rehabilitation center (rehab) consists of two segments- the detoxification centre (detox) where the addicts are treated with medicines to overcome the withdrawal. Then they are sent to the rehab for physical and mental recovery. Besides this, proper rehabs have gymnasium, playgrounds, swimming pools etc where the addicts can recover physically which in turn gives them the mental strength to face the mainstream.

Here we have to understand some basic facts about drug addiction. It is a disease probably genetic (subject still under research), that cannot be cured but can only be arrested. An ideal parallel would be diabetes. Drug addiction is the third killer disease after AIDS and cancer. So, to treat a person with this deadly disease, a lot of expertise and deconstruction followed by proper reconstruction is necessary. Empathy, proper bonding with the addicts and astute psychological treatment is necessary to project the person back to the mainstream world.

There are only a few rehabilitation centers in India with proper registration and infrastructure for such specialized treatment. The biggest network is probably Kripa Foundation which has a center in possibly all the major cities of India. Other big names include Calcutta Samaritans and Neemans.

However, the reason for concern is the fact that every one recovering addict out of ten, with a little political connection and some investment capacity, is opening up a rehabilitation centre. These centres are usually rented three or four bedroom flats where the centre heads cram in at least eighteen to twenty addicts. Now, one can easily understand the unhygienic nature of such a rat hole. There are no resident medical officers, no psychologists, only some sadist bullies who are also recovering addicts to keep the general crowd of the addicts under control.

Now, let’s talk about the darker sides of these so called detoxification centres. Some addicts in withdrawal become violent. Such cases should be dealt with extreme care and the patient needs to be sedated effectively. However, in reality the sadist bullies beat up the patient to a state of unconsciousness often leading to the death of the addict. All this hardly matters because the addict is made to sign a risk bond before admission and the murders are passed off as suicides. I personally know about at least two such cases. A detox, in Baghajatin, South Kolkata, was closed down after the alleged murder of an addict who was asphyxiated to death. This incident also received wide media coverage.

Parents and families of drug addicts are in the middle of an ocean of endless despair. Like a drowning person, they clutch at whatever straws these illegal centres provide with the feeble hope that their ward might recover someday from the clutches of this killing drug. Besides, not many families are affluent enough to try Neemans or the Kripa Foundation.

Drug addicts are also human beings. Can we afford such criminal brutalities in the name of a noble cause? My plea is to the government health department or whichever jurisdiction these cases come under to take a survey of these illegal rehabilitation/detoxification centers and close them down forever and also to pass a proper set of rules and regulations for opening up of a rehabilitation centre.