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Centre may issue advisory for addicts going through withdrawal during lockdown

The Central government is likely to issue an advisory for addicts experiencing withdrawal symptoms during the 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials on Wednesday.

A week into the three-week lock-down, which includes severe curbs on movement, the Union Social Justice and Empowerment (SJ&E) Ministry is planning on issuing an advisory this week, officials said.

The secretary of the Ministry’s SJ&E department, R. Subrahmanyam, said an advisory for addicts facing withdrawal symptoms, including advice on when to seek medical care at hospitals, would be issued soon.

Some State governments have issued guidelines of their own, including the Kerala government’s decision to allow alcohol to be sold to those who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, as certified by a doctor. The decision has been criticised by many doctors.

Awareness programmes

The Ministry has been carrying out awareness programmes and outreach as a part of the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2025). On March 3, the Ministry had informed Parliament that the Narcotics Control Bureau had given a list of areas vulnerable to drug trafficking — 272 areas across the country — and that ₹35 crore had been allocated to the National Institute of Social Defence in 2019-2020 to carry out the “drug-free India campaign”.

According to the ‘Magnitude of Substance Abuse in India’ report by the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, which was submitted to the Ministry in 2019, “problem use” and “dependent use” was seen in 8.6 crore alcohol users, 1.05 crore of opiod users, 97 lakh of cannabis users and 30.5 lakh inhalant users.

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