News : Drug Abuse Helpline a Joke
Chandigarh, Oct 22, 2014 -- There is no one to man Chandigarh's only drug abuse helpline despite the region being infamous for substance abuse. Days after Manisha, 21, a resident of Sector 22, died reportedly of heroin overdose, TOI called up the helpline four times from 3.30pm to 4.30pm on Tuesday, but no one responded.
The helpline number, which is under the Crisis Intervention Team, was started at Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in March this year. What is astonishing is that it is operational between 9am and 5pm - during office hours, while such helplines around the world are functional round-the-clock.
According to the medical experts, the team consists of a paramedic and a driver for an ambulance. "The helpline was started in March. It focuses on mental health problems, including drug abuse and overdose," said Dr B S Chavan, head of the psychiatry department at GMCH who started this helpline.
Despite being run by a government hospital, it's being financially supported by an NGO and not by the UT administration. A bank has donated the ambulance for the cause. The team is supposed to provide timely intervention soon after it gets a call. The paramedic can provide the first-aid and wheel in the patient for treatment following overdose or drug abuse complications. "As there is shortage of resources, we are operating this helpline from 9am to 5pm. However, soon we will make it 24X7 and operational throughout the week," said Dr Chavan.
The purpose of initiating the team and the helpline gets defeated since its time is limited. Moreover, substance abusers, especially women, rarely approach the hospital directly. "We do not get women abusers following an overdose or any such complication. It's considered a taboo for a woman to be into drugs, so they do not turn to hospital," said Dr Savita Malhotra, in charge of drug deaddiction centre, PGI.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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