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COVID-19 Lockdown Could Have Debilitating Impact On Alcoholics, Drug Addicts, These In Rehab: Psychiatrists – Outlook India

Shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the 21-day ban last week to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, many, perhaps jokingly, wondered how smokers, alcoholics, or drug addicts would deal with new regimes.

Does the ban offer the possibility to quit smoking and detoxify? Whether last minute calls were made to pirates and stocks hoarded for the long dry season? Can smokers easily switch to Nicotex? What if chemists run out of nicotine gum? What about those who are addicted to banned drugs and psychotropic substances? Unlike alcohol or cigarettes, illegal drugs are difficult to obtain. How risky would business between addicts and suppliers be now? There were also questions for rehab patients: Will they be able to attend therapy sessions, how difficult would it be to get to the counselor, and whether medication to deal with the withdrawal – which most chemists don't readily have – would be readily available?


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One week after the ban, the questions in the tenor changed. In certain groups on social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp, there are numerous messages from tipsters asking whether alcohol sales are open anywhere. If anyone knows of a home delivery service for alcohol, what is the MRP surcharge? Finding a pack of cigarettes is easier for smokers, but prices have increased because the crayon pen is not an essential commodity and is currently only sold secretly. For example, a pack of 10 Goldflake cigarettes sells from Rs. 200 in most Delhi NCR locations for its MRP of Rs. 130; Some claim to have paid up to 250 rupees. Some addiction psychiatrists claim that their WhatsApp groups saw an increase in peers who were discussing new cases of alcoholics and drug users who were looking for advice on how to deal with withdrawal symptoms.

According to some media reports, by March 30, Kerala had registered eight suicide cases of people who could not cope with alcohol withdrawal. The official death toll from coronavirus infection in Kerala has been two. The Pinarayi Vijayan government may have been concerned about coping with an epidemic of suicide-related suicide, while the state continues to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, amber-colored stuff for them. The Kerala government's decision met with vigorous opposition from the state's Chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), which wrote to the CM that “alcohol withdrawal can be successfully treated with medication” and that “doctors should be asked to drink alcohol recommended as treatment for alcohol withdrawal "send a wrong message to the public". Nevertheless, the Meghalaya government followed Kerala's leadership and allowed alcohol to be sold to people who were armed with a doctor's prescription.

When India enters the second week of the blockade and is unsure whether this quarantine will end or be extended on April 15, addict psychiatrists believe that “heavy addicts” to alcohol, illegal drugs, and psychiatric drugs may find it difficult Substances and also for those who are currently in rehab.

Dr. Atul Ambekar, a professor at the AIIMS National Drug Dependence Treatment Center, New Delhi, told Outlook: “Withdrawal symptoms for people who are physically dependent on alcohol or drugs can be very stressful, but in most cases they subside, though these symptoms are self-limiting In a few days … however, withdrawal can be debilitating or even fatal for addicts who fall into the heavy addiction category and who have other health problems. "

Ambekar says that the current scenario is associated with several complications. "It's not just the sale of alcohol that is currently banned … everything is closed, including OPD in many hospitals. In this scenario, people who have difficulty coping with the withdrawal cannot easily access hospitals "In some cases, users do not even admit that they are addicted to alcohol or drugs. This is even more difficult for addicts of banned substances because their withdrawal symptoms are more severe compared to alcoholics and treatment is complicated."

Because most hospitals have addiction counseling facilities that are currently focused on Covid 19 cases, Ambekar said, “It is difficult to say with certainty that addicts seeking help are increasing during the ban,” said Ambekar to have". However, he admits that "in conversations with doctors and psychiatrists who help addicts and what I see on our Internet forums, there seems to be an increase in such cases." He adds that loosening the ban to make alcohol available to alcoholics who deal with addiction “makes no sense”, the government should have had an emergency plan for treating addicts during the ban, and “the medical care available Benefits are clearly not sufficient to deal with the consequences because it is expected that cases of severe withdrawal will only increase with progressive closure. "

Ambekar also insists that the case of alcoholics with withdrawal symptoms must be separated from that of addicts who are dependent on opioids, other hard drugs and psychotropic substances. "The state of those in need of hard drugs or undergoing rehabilitation after stopping such substances is a major concern," Ambekar says, adding that such drugs are sold on the gray market anyway, and blocking for current users Obtaining items will complicate you are addicted to it and so the withdrawal will be sudden and can be fatal. “For those in treatment, the prescription drug is not readily available from all chemists, and the dosage that can be sold is also controlled, since overdosing can lead to other complications. Under the lock, it can be difficult for multiple rehab patients to get these medications because your corner store might not have them in stock, ”he adds.

The addict psychiatrist Dr. Chandigarh Ashwin Mohan says the problems for drug addicts could be triple during the blackout period. “First, there is a high risk of drug addicts mixing substances they can get their hands on during the shutdown or trying to administer them in a different way than usual to reach the high they are used to, and it could cost them their lives . Second, these drugs are expensive anyway because they are not legal and must be sold in secret. The blockage will likely push prices higher, so an addict can try criminal means to get that extra money. Third, addicts who do not receive the medication will experience severe withdrawal, and since treatment facilities may not be easily accessible, the user will suffer complications that, in some cases, can lead to death or suicide . " he says.

Mohan says the current ban should force the government to rethink India's mechanisms to combat the drug abuse threat. “Every addict in our society has a high stigma. even to an alcoholic. While all leaders and governments say they want to get rid of the drug problem, they give the lowest priority to strengthening medical facilities for those who want to avoid alcohol or drugs. The ongoing crisis should make policymakers think about it, ”says Mohan.

Although there is no doubt that combating the coronavirus pandemic must be a top priority, the impact of the ban on addicts should be given due consideration so that the issues affecting them can be addressed in due course. “We need helplines in sensitive districts to help addicts. We need to train telemedicists to deal with addicts who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Most of the existing facilities are located in subways or major cities, while the rates of addiction, especially opioids, are much higher in villages and smaller towns where there are no addiction treatment facilities. "

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