When one thinks of substance abuse, different images come to mind. The most prominent one is that of a relentless addict - someone who just cannot seem to give up - a lost cause. But is that really the case?
It is important now, more than ever, to give emphasis to the recovery of people suffering from substance abuse. A nation-wide survey conducted by The National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi in 2019 revealed alarming statistics. 16 crore people consume alcohol regularly with about 5.7 crore using it harmfully. Cannabis use has been recorded in about 3 crore individuals. One in 11 users ends up dependent on the drug. While 2.2 crore individuals used opioid substances, approximately 77 lakh users can be addicted. Other widely abused substances include inhalants, sedatives, cocaine, etc. Given that the problem of drug addiction is so widespread, it becomes increasingly necessary to redefine how we perceive them and the medical care administered to them.
Having worked with several addicts, Raji Raj - program head of Cadabam's Anunitha, a de-addiction centre - gives a fresh perspective on rehabilitation. A psychiatric social worker by profession, she says rehabilitation is the need of the hour. She stresses how the stigma associated with mental health, de-addiction in particular, prevents many from reaching out for help. The characteristic difference between self-administered detoxification and rehabilitation is that the latter focus on reintegration to society.
"At Cadabam's group of hospitals and rehabilitation centres, the focus is on ensuring that the family is an integral part of the recovery journey with a holistic approach to treatment with our multidisciplinary team," Raji adds. She emphasises that relapses are a part of recovery and the journey differs based on the individual.
Sangmai is one of her dearest clients. At 25, he is a published author and an open advocate for mental health. Well versed in the world of martial arts, he has experimented with MMA, Muay Thai, Taekwondo and Kickboxing. He highlights the importance of community healing in rehab facilities, stating, "You don't feel like a stranger. Everybody there has had painful experiences and you can connect, even without speaking."
Sangmai is now two years sober and has written the book 'One Day at a Time' to chronicle his experiences with marijuana addiction and his consequent recovery. He adds that his father was his biggest motivator. He recalls how when the addiction was at its worst, he would threaten to beat his father up. He says with a chuckle, "We are best friends now." He continues to share a special bond with his therapist Raji who is quick to bring up how proud she is of him.
Vijay's story is vastly different. At 48, he was in and out of rehab several times in his 20 years of drinking. He confesses that his addiction put a strain on his family. After about 3 months of intensive therapy and several Alcoholics Anonymous meetings later, he is on the path to recovery. His family members are delighted to have him back and his recovery has brought together the family once again. However, he insists that he is still not 'recovered', "I can only be considered recovered if I do not have another drink till I die". He aims to be more involved with his two daughters and make up for the lost time. His wife, Jayanthi is relieved to see how he has progressed and confides that support groups for caretakers helped her ease him into recovery. They still regularly attend the monthly caregivers meeting conducted by Anunitha every second Saturday.
It might seem like there is no hope for people who are dependent on drugs. But rising from the ashes are phoenixes who we don't always talk about but should.
Also Read: 'Pratisandhi': A Youth-Led Attempt Towards Ending Social Stigma On Sexual Health