Kohima: “What the alcohol and narcotic prohibition act(s) could not achieve in the past 30 years, the lockdown has achieved in three months time only,” said Dr Viketoulie Pienyü, state nodal officer for Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST), while revealing that the nationwide lockdown has led to inaccessibility of drugs in Nagaland, which made way for a decline in drug abuse.
Currently catering to 149 active clients under OST at the Naga hospital in Kohima, Pienyü said that the deprivation from substance use has created “quiet a lot of anxiety and depression” among the users but has also created a “good impact” where many users were able to come out of withdrawal and give up their dependence on drug use.
He revealed that many drug users, who remained hidden, are now coming out to receive OST treatment, which according to him is a good progress. He is of the opinion that if the lockdown persists, it will become a deterrent for many drug users and alcoholics.
While drug users are now “emerging out” to receive OST treatment due to the unavailability of drugs, there are still many who are battling their dependence on drugs. The health and family welfare department has projected the number of injecting drug users in the state to around 19,000.
There is now a fear that if the lockdown is lifted, there will be an easy access to drugs which may lead to an increase in drug overdose cases.
There is now a fear that if the lockdown is lifted, there will be an easy access to drugs which may lead to an increase in drug overdose cases. According to Ketholelie Angami, the president of Access to Rights and Knowledge (ARK) foundation, there is a likelihood of drug overdose situation in the state post-lockdown.
He said that for those drug users who are sustaining without treatment may relapse after the lockdown, once there is an easy access to drugs. He also pointed out that those users, who are into low dosage of drugs, may increase the dosage, which may lead to drug-overdose related deaths.
To prevent fatal drug overdose in the state, he said that Naxolone injections—which reverses effect of overdose—are being advocated. Saying that drug overdose can happen anywhere, he informed that various NGOs were trained on overdose management.
Abou Mere, director of KRIPA foundation, said that 80 ampoules of Naxolone were distributed to the district headquarters and that with the help of the Nagaland State Aids Control Society (NSACS) and HIV/AIDS Alliance India, 200 ampoules of Naxolone were ordered and the packages are likely to reach the state this week.
Besides the fear of opioid drug overdose in the post lockdown period, the health activist expressed concern saying that the state government is “not prepared” to manage or treat the drug overdose patients. Mere also that withdrawal of drug-overdose could lead to lead to depression, possibly leading to suiciddal tendencies in users.
The health activists also mentioned that opioid drugs such as ‘sunflower’ and ‘WY’ (World is Yours-commonly known as Yaba) are now available in the black markets in Nagaland across Kohima, Dimapur, Mon, Wokha, Zunheboto, Tuensang, and Peren districts.
According to the activists, there are five rehabilitation centres in Nagaland–two in Kohima and three in Dimapur, regulated by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment . The districts of Peren, Longleng, Tuensang and Phek are in the process of establishing regulated rehabilitation centres, although it is uncertain of when it is likely to function.
As the state battles against COVID-19, the Naga hospital in Kohima is also activated as a COVID-19 hospital forcing the OST centre at the hospital to temporarily shift to the KRIPA foundation’s Drop in Centre (DIC) at Jail colony in Kohima. Dr Viketoulie Pienyü also informed that along with the OST treatment services, the methadone maintenance treatment for opioid drug users will also be provided.