Efforts to increase the number of beds at Vimukthi drug rehabilitation center

After a hiatus of more than two years when it was converted into a front-line treatment center in the fight against the pandemic, the Excise Department’s Vimukthi Detoxification Center operating out of Muvattupuzha General Hospital has resumed inpatient (IP) service benefits.

This decision takes on significance in the wake of the increase in Narcotic Drugs and Psychoactive Substances (NDPS) cases in the district and the reopening of schools given the increasing vulnerability of young people to drugs. The detox center service had been reserved for outpatients (OP) only since the start of the pandemic.

Since the resumption of IP services last Saturday, three people had been admitted, two of whom had since been released. “We now have 10 beds at the centre, two of which are reserved for minors. Efforts are underway to increase the number to 20, although space constraints remain an obstacle,” said Faris Basheer, a physician at the center.

The center follows a 21-day treatment protocol for inpatients depending on the severity of the problem. It starts with a psychological education to analyze the patients’ problems followed by a 10-day detox. Psychological therapy begins once the patient calms down, followed by a relapse prevention session.

“We have noticed an increase in problems caused by MDMA, a premium synthetic drug, in addition to cannabis. We deal with approximately 12 to 24 cases per month in the OP section. Prior to the suspension of inpatient services, we were receiving 10 to 12 cases per month,” Basheer said.

Shijo Antony, an adviser to Vimukthi, said that while the state undoubtedly remains in the grip of the drug threat, a clear picture of the situation worsening with the reopening of schools could emerge from a few months here.

“It was only recently that we had two tenth standard students who turned to ganja under the influence of a peer group a few months ago. In the past, young people started to smoke cigarettes clandestinely, but now ganja seems to have replaced it. The danger of drug rackets using children as peddlers on the grounds that they could escape harsh punishment because of their youth remains an obvious danger,” he said.

The de-addiction centre, launched in 2018, has since tended to have 6,300 in the OP section in addition to 169 admissions. Alarmingly, over 300 children under the age of 15 and over 350 children between the ages of 15 and 18 have been treated at the centre.

The center has a staff of 10, including a psychologist and a psychiatric social worker. OP operates between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

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