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No rehabilitation programmes exist for drug addicts in Pakistan

By Muhammad Qasim
June 27, 2018

Islamabad: There are hardly any treatment and rehabilitation centres in Pakistan in public sector for thousands of drug addicts willing to give up their addiction and also there has not been any rehabilitation programmes for them.

Data collected by ‘The News’ on United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking that falls on June 26 every year has revealed that not more than 300 drug addicts can be given limited treatment facilities at one time in the country while in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, only 14 beds are available for drug addicts in public sector hospitals.

The public sector hospitals provide detoxification services only to drug addicts in Pakistan and not treatment and rehabilitation services. Anti-Narcotics Force though has set up three Model Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Centres (MATRCs) in Islamabad, Quetta and Karachi but that too can cater to the needs of only 150 drug addicts, with 45 beds each in centres in Islamabad and Quetta and 60 beds in Karachi.

According to section 52 and 53 of Control of Narcotic Substances Act 1997, the responsibility of registration and rehabilitation of drug addicts falls within the purview of the provincial governments however the provinces have done nothing significant in this regard so far.

The Punjab government has directed all public sector hospitals to allocate eight beds for treatment of drug addicts and following the directives, the Institute of Psychiatry at Benazir Bhutto Hospital has allocated 10 beds for treatment of drug addicts reaching the three allied hospitals in town, said Head of Institute of Psychiatry Professor Dr. Asad Tamizuddin while talking to ‘The News’ on Tuesday.

He added the institute has also established a detoxification unit separately for drug addicts in collaboration with WHO and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. To a query, he admitted the treatment facilities available for drug addicts at BBH are not sufficient because there is much burden of patients with mental illness.

We keep a drug addict in ward for two weeks for detoxification because of limited number of beds while ideally, a drug addict should be kept in ward for one to two months, said Dr. Tamizuddin.

The so-called addiction treatment centres established in private sector keeps a drug addict in ward for a week and when he comes out, he again uses the drugs and it is making the situation more alarming, he said.

Apart from BBH, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences is the only hospital in public sector in this region that provides treatment facilities to drug addicts but that too limited. We have allocated 20 per cent beds in psychiatry department at PIMS for treatment of drug addicts, said Head of Psychiatry Department at PIMS Professor Dr. Rizwan while talking to ‘The News’ on Tuesday.

The PIMS Psychiatry Department has 20 beds in all and four have been allocated for drug addicts though allocation of four beds is in no way sufficient however PC-1 has been approved for a complete drug treatment unit at PIMS, he said.

The number of drug addicts is on the rise and a number of quacks running addiction treatment centres are worsening the situation, he said. The situation can only be improved by establishing more treatment and rehabilitation centres in public sector for treatment of drug addicts, said Professor Rizwan.

It is important that MATRC Islamabad set up by ANF has only 45 beds with a waiting list of 800 people at any given time and according to a number of health experts, there is a dire need to open more rehabilitation centres in public sector, at least one in each district of the country.