OST Method Set To Control Drug Dependency

A drug abuser being provided Oral Substitution Therapy (OST). Image Credit: Sangai Photo.

IMPHAL, Jan 29: Apart from being a problem to the family and locality, a person who has become drug dependent from one reason or another normally starts lo-sing his self-esteem thinking life is not worth living any more. Under the Harm Reduction Strategy of National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) efforts are being made to rehabilitate such drug dependents through Oral Substitution Therapy (OST).

OST not only help drug dependents in overcoming the pang of withdrawal syndromes and prevent them from indulging in possible crimes in the family and society when their drug craving command them, but also make them start realizing their responsibility to the family and society.

For instance, when a dependent of No. 4 (heroin) stopped taking drug, he/she may experience frequent yawning, body itch, acute pain on body joints, vomiting, fever, profuse sweating and slurring of speech. Such syndromes are very difficult for the drug dependents to bear and they fear them the most.

At that moment, what the drug dependents would normally see and think of is nothing but the dose of their drug requirement. He/she is not afraid of anybody and can even steal from his own house as well as from others just to get their drug dose. At times, they can even kill innocent young children to snatch their gold ear-rings.

When they get hold of their required drug dose, the drug dependents do not care about consequences of syringe sharing or possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (SITs) with the precautions of safer sex thrown into the air.

With the main objective of rehabilitating the drug dependents, 21 rehabilitation centers have been set up in Manipur under the Ministry of Justice and Social Empowerment, Government of Manipur.

But there have been many of cases relapse even after staying and undergoing treatment in such rehabilitation centers 4/5 times. The Oral Substitution Therapy (OST) has been introduced as a harm reduction strategies in case of drug dependents falling relapse.

Under OST, Buprenorphine is grounded into powder and given to the drug dependents, in accordance to their required drug dose, for keeping under their tongues. OST is a direct observation treatment. Buprenorphine are provided to the NGOs implementing OST and the drug dependents have to come to the OST sites every day for undergoing this treatment.

Implementation of OST started in Manipur under NACO since March 2008 along with designation of seven NGOs in different parts of the State. By the end of 2010, the total number of injecting drug users (IDUs) registered for OST in Manipur is 3221 and 1267 IDUs have been covered till December, 2010. Funded by the UK-based Department of International Development, implementation of OST started for the first time on a pilot project for 18 months in Manipur and Nagaland with Emmanuel Hospital Association as administrator and Australian International Health Institute (AIHI) extending necessary technical assistance. The Ukhrul based NGO, Citizens’ Alliance for Re-empowerment (CARE, Ukhrul) is one of the selected OST sites in Manipur where Centre for Advocacy and Research and Project Orchid jointly conducted a media site visit from January 27 to 28.

The media site visiting team got the rare opportunity of interacting with the drug dependents who are on OST as well as former drug dependents who have been staying clean after undergoing OST and their family members.

Wife of a drug dependent, who started using No. 4 since 1990 but has enrolled for OST since 2006, said, ‘˜’˜We suffered a lot while my husband was using drugs. He did not take any responsibility whether in the family, upbringing of children or in the locality. What he cares about was only his daily dose of No. 4. But after enrolling for OST, he does not go around like a madman searching for No. 4 and he has started giving thoughts about the family and children”.

Echoing the same sentiments, wife of another drug dependent, who started using No. 4 three years back but has enrolled for OST since June, 2010, said, ‘˜’˜OST is indeed a blessing for us. After my husband started using drug, he sold our car, spend all the money. He was planning to sell the homestead as well when I brought him to the office of CARE, Ukhrul. Now we don’t have car or any money. But we can talk properly. My husband has also started caring about his children and mixing with the local people”.

Interacting with media-persons on the sideline of the visit, advisor of Kamphasom Women Society and member of Child Welfare Committee, Ukhrul Zameth Hongyo informed that the problem of drug among the youths in Ukhrul town started appearing in 1990. There was lot of tension among the people of Wino Bazar when these young drug users started stealing properties of other people when their demand for money to buy drugs could not be fulfilled in the family.  But with introduction of OST by CARE, public have also started understanding the benefit and the rate of crimes committed by the young drug users has been declining, Zameth Hongyo added.

In connection with OST program, Dr H Angomcha, who is a Psychiatrist in District Hospital, Bishnupur, said that it is a very good program for harm reduction. As there is no question of syringe sharing in this program, spread of HIV and other Blood Borne Vector is out of the picture. OST is implemented under medical supervision and instances of withdrawal syndromes and over doze is minimum. Drug users do not have to go around in search for drugs. OST can rehabilitate the drug dependents. Most importantly, there is the possibility for understanding health problems of the drug dependents since they have to sit together along with the doctors, nurses and counselors at the OST sites. OST can made drug dependent clean in nine months provided he follows the instruction properly, Dr Angomcha added.

*Reported by Ng Liklaileima Arambam

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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