The characteristics of opium users studied at the treatment centres in Lekhapani and North Lakhimpur, Assam, India

Abstract

Note by The Editor: the following is a preliminary account received from the Government of India regarding the work being done at the centres for opium addicts in Assam. It is hoped to publish a subsequent study of the treatment given, and results achieved in this programme.

Details

Author: R. Z. AHMED I.A.S.
Pages: 45 to 49
Creation Date: 1967/01/01

The characteristics of opium users studied at the treatment centres in Lekhapani and North Lakhimpur, Assam, India

R. Z. AHMED I.A.S. Commissioner of Excise Assam

Note by The Editor: the following is a preliminary account received from the Government of India regarding the work being done at the centres for opium addicts in Assam. It is hoped to publish a subsequent study of the treatment given, and results achieved in this programme.

The problems of de-addiction of the existing opium addicts cropped up on the introduction of the programme of total prohibition in Assam. A scheme for de-addiction and treatment of the addicts had, therefore, been evolved with the active co-operation of the State's Medical Department. This method of treatment is being successfully carried out in the various opium addicts treatment centres opened for the purpose which are managed entirely by non-official workers under the aegis of the Prohibition Commissioner. Opium Prohibition Committees also have been set up under the provisions of the Assam Opium Prohibition Act of 1947 in order to mobilise public opinion against the opium habit as also to enlist public co-operation in addition to assisting the official staff. The Act also provides for deterrent publishment in opium-smuggling cases.

Some of the members of the aforesaid Opium Prohibition Committees are appointed as organizers and prohibition officers. Their duties are to organize public meetings in the rural areas to explain the evil effects of opium. They are mainly entrusted with the work of persuading and bringing the opium addicts to the treatment centres for curing them of the habit of opium eating and also looking after the addicts while under treatment. There is one opium addicts treatment centre under each Opium Prohibition Committee. The entire expenditure on treatment of addicts is borne by the government.

The addicts are brought to the treatment centres by persuasion and not by compulsion. The prohibition organizers, officers and workers visit the villages to find out addicts with a view to bring them to the treatment centres. They also make propaganda to the effect that the addicts could be treated free of cost under the supervision of a medical officer. Thus convinced of the propaganda, many opium addicts voluntarily come to the treatment centres for receiving the treatment.

A one-year-old child who has completed treatment at Lekhapani 45

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The Lekhapani Opium addicts Treatment Centre.

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A family of opium addicts being to the Treatment Centre.

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In the treatment ward.

When an opium addict is admitted into a treatment centre, the following particulars in respect of him are recorded in a register:

  1. Name

  2. Age

  3. Sex

  4. Religion

  5. Occupation

  6. Social status

  7. Income

  8. Ration of opium consumed.

The following is an analysis of such data in respect of the Treatment Centres at Lekhapani and North Lakhimpur:

Age of the addicts: It varied from 1 year to 75 years. The number of addicts under different age groups in the above two Centres were as follows:

Up to 10 years
3
From 10 to 25 years
105
From 25 to 40 years
1,478
Above 40 years
1,493
Total
3,079

Sex of the addicts: Out of total addicts in the above two Centres, 525 were female and 2,554 were male.

Occupation: Out of 3,079 addicts, 1,861 were agriculturists and 1,218 were labourers.

Social status: They came from lower strata of the society.

Income: Almost all the addicts were from the lowest income group.

Ration of opium consumed before the treatment: Itvaried from 2/5 of a gram to 1? grams per addict per day.

At the time of admission of an addict in a treatment centre, an attempt was made to ascertain the causes which led to the habit and other predisposing factors such as general health, environment, hygiene, vocation, etc. The percentage of different factors which lead to the habit is shown hereunder:

   

%

1.
Associations and examples of relatives and friends
35
2.
To alleviate symptom of disease or as a cure for certain ailments
25
3.
To overcome fatigue
20
4.
For.euphoric and pleasure giving effects
15
5.
To replace another addiction, such as alcohol
5
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An addict being examined by the doctor.

It would thus be observed that association and example of other addicts is the main factor responsible for a larger percentage taking to the habit. Disease comes next, as 25% took to the drug believing in its curative value for certain diseases and ailments. Fatigue was the third common cause, and there were 20% who took opium to overcome fatigue in a single dosage towards evening. They stated that they felt restful and enjoyed sound sleep and were able to go to work next day fresh again. There are 15% of cases who stated that they indulged in the habit merely on account of its pleasure-giving and euphoric effect, the drug removed the sense of inhibition in such persons possibly by depressing the higher nervous centres. There were a small number of individuals (5%) who took opium to replace alcohol or another drug.

At present, there are eight treatment centres for opium addicts in the State of Assam in the following places: (1) Rampur, in Kamrup District; (2) Singimari, in Nowgong District; (3) North Lakhimpur, in Lakhimpur District; (4) Dhemaji, in Lakhimpur District; (5) Lekhapani, in Lakhimpur District; (6) Chabua, in Lakhimpur District; (7) Baithalangsu in United Mikir and North Cachar Hills District; and (8) Diphu, in United Mikir and North Cachar Hills District.

The number of addicts admitted to the treatment centres and cured since the opening of the centres is as follows:

   

Number of opium addicts admitted

Number of opium addicts cured

1.
Rampur
796 593
2.
Singimari
442 353
3.
North Lakhimpur
1,207 1,026
4.
Dhemaji
342 233
5.
Lekhapani
1,872 1,678
6.
Chabua
587 504
7.
Baithalangsu
318 121
8.
Diphu
347 124
 
Total
5,911 4,632

The individuals with a nervous diathesis and liable to suffer from a relapse are kept under observation by prohibition staff and by their relatives, to prevent them from taking the drug secretly. In order to rehabilitate and train addicts who had been weaned from the drug to a new walk of life and narcotic-free environment, attempts are being made to provide for diversional therapy in the way of gardening and cottage industries like basket-making. Some cases showed a relapse to

the habit during the rehabilitation period, and the treatment had to be repeated, sometimes twice. The period of rehabilitation and rebuilding of personalities in certain cases extended over several months depending on such factors as the personality and character of the addicts, the cause of addiction, the presence of a nervous diathesis, heredity, etc. It is difficult to keep those persons from taking the drug who suffered from a nervous diathesis with sense of inhibition, specially the aged with longer duration of addiction. Younger addicts with a stable nervous system who have imbibed the habit by mere association are easier to treat. During the rehabilitation period, chronic ailments, such as malaria and dysentery, are also attended to as far as possible.

It is seen that most of the addicts cured after the treatment in the opium addicts treatments centres in Assam have given up the habit of opium taking, have become good citizens and are leading a normal life.