Psychiatrist and Programme Officer of the South Goa District Mental Health Programme (DMHP) Dr Shilpa Pandya is of the opinion that the emphasis should be laid on drug education if the menace of substance abuse is to be curbed in Goa.
Dr Pandya cites how sex education played a crucial role in controlling the spread of HIV. “Substance use cannot be dealt with by only educating children. Parents and teachers need to be roped in because today even schools, like parents, do not want to admit that their students are consuming drugs,” she explains.
Though the de-addiction centre in Monte has most cases related to alcohol abuse, Dr Pandya, who claims to have treated just two cases of opium addiction since the last year, fears “that it could be due to lack of knowledge that de-addiction facility is provided by the government.”
“The information filtered through internet assists addiction,” believes the psychiatrist who began her career in Mumbai.
“Today we see people wanting to find out and get answers on internet on safe ways of smoking marijuana. Now, smoking marihuana is bad, so how can there be a safe way of smoking it? Similar is the problem of smoking e-cigarettes,” explains Dr Pandya.
“E-cigarettes were introduced to help chronic smokers. Now first-timers have resorted to using it not realising it is as bad and as such the purpose of introducing such cigarettes is defeated,” thinks Dr Pandya .
“Searching for identity leads individuals to experiment, and this experiment turns into addiction if we do not know the boundary where we need to stop. Then the normal becomes a pattern,” advises Dr Pandya while explaining how humans slip into addiction.
South Goa, according to Dr Pandya, has more alcohol-related cases, and the cases are easier to treat in Goa, compared to other states, because of the higher literacy.
“Every person has different upbringing and different family set-up, and therefore the approach needs to be different. You cannot think of helping an individual recover from addiction if he has no more money to buy food,” explains Dr Shilpa while explaining that it is easier for an educated person to comprehend his problem and relate it to a psychiatrist.
Spirituality helps in de-addiction, according to Dr Shilpa, as groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) lean on spirituality. “The easiest way to connect to spirituality is through religion but it does not necessarily mean that it will work for all,” she reflects.
“Education is a good way forward but we have to realise that today drug peddling is so lucrative that we need the law enforcers to understand that they play the biggest role. Drug dealers are buying everyone around and are reaching even the remotest areas of Goa. This needs to be stopped first,” thinks another psychiatrist who asked for anonymity.
The DMHP team with Dr Pandya as head also consists of bond psychiatrist Dr Arpita, clinical psychologist Alvia, psychiatric social worker Rama and nurse Rita. They visit the Ponda SDH and Shiroda PHC every first and third Tuesday of the month; Curchorem and Sanguem PHC on every second and fourth Tuesday of the month; the Canacona and Bali PHC every first and third Friday of the month; and Cansaulim and Loutolim PHC every second and fourth Friday of the month.
“Of all the centres we visit, Ponda keeps us the busiest,” admitted a member of the team.
“Withdrawal and motivation counselling works about sixty to seventy per cent. Releases happen due to social factors where we cannot do much,” said Dr Pandya.
That South Goa is geared to handle drug addiction cases and assist in its prevention is a step in the right direction. However, to many it is just the beginning .