The Drug Prob­lem

Enterprise - - Letters -

Pak­istan has a drug ad­dic­tion prob­lem, but there are al­most no treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties to treat drug ad­dicts. Those will­ing to give up their drug ad­dic­tion have very few places to go to. Pak­istan’s pub­lic sec­tor only has the ca­pac­ity to treat 300 drug ad­dicts at a time. This has cre­ated a sit­u­a­tion in which it is al­most im­pos­si­ble for any­one ad­dicted to drugs to re­ceive ad­e­quate treat­ment. The sit­u­a­tion in the twin cities of Is­lam­abad and Rawalpindi in­di­cates how deep the malaise goes. There are only 14 beds available for drug ad­dicts in public­sec­tor hospi­tals. These hospi­tals only pro­vide detox­i­fi­ca­tion ser­vices, but no treat­ment or re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties. The Anti-Nar­cotics Force op­er­ates three treat­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tres with a ca­pac­ity to treat 150 peo­ple. The non-ex­is­tent sta­tus of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties in the coun­try con­trasts starkly with the num­ber of drug ad­dicts in the coun­try. The UN es­ti­mates that there are al­most 7.8 mil­lion drug ad­dicts in Pak­istan. The ab­sence of pub­lic-sec­tor fa­cil­i­ties to treat ad­dicts is a damn­ing in­dict­ment of the coun­try’s anti­nar­cotics strat­egy. TThe only op­tion for those who want to cure their ad­dic­tion is to go to the pri­vate sec­tor, where tens of thou­sands of un­reg­is­tered clin­ics op­er­ate with lit­tle reg­u­la­tion. The Pub­lic Health Com­mis­sion is re­ported to have sealed over 10,000 such clin­ics since 2015 alone. But the same cen­tres keep pop­ping up at new lo­ca­tions. The gap be­tween the de­mand for treat­ing drug ad­dic­tion and the sup­ply of qual­i­fied sup­port is huge. Last month an­other 15 fake drug treat­ment cen­tres in the prov­ince were shut down while an­other 20 were is­sued show-cause no­tices. Left to the de­vices of the pri­vate sec­tor, drug ad­dicts have be­come a ma­jor cash cow for quacks who lack any qual­i­fi­ca­tions to treat them. Most of these pri­vate clin­ics op­er­ate in con­tra­ven­tion of Pak­istan’s Men­tal Health Act. The worst fate is that which be­falls drug ad­dicts. The task of bring­ing them out of de­spair in­volves giv­ing them hope. But there is lit­tle in the ex­ist­ing state of af­fairs to sug­gest that the govern­ment will be their ray of sun­shine. Mu­jtaba Bar­las,


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