Drug addiction on the rise among students in Visakhapatnam

Parents, kin should look out for behavioural changes, say experts

The use of narcotics, injected drugs and ganja is on the rise in Visakhapatnam city. The unfortunate part is that young students are getting addicted, but it is being too late by the time, their parents come of know of it.

It’s for the parents and other family members to look out for behavioural changes in their children, particularly college-going students, who are vulnerable to such influences and try to assess their mental condition apart from seeking professional help at the earliest. Timely intervention can save lives.

“The Centre for Psychological Assessment and Counselling, Andhra University, is getting two to three cases a week for counselling and treatment. A majority of those coming to our centre are students of engineering and law colleges, in addition to some students, who studied in Russia and returned after picking up the habit there,” Centre Director M.V.R. Raju tells The Hindu.

“The irregular classes and relaxation in attendance in some colleges is giving a lot of freedom and making some students thinking of new ways to kill time. Frequent quarrels among parents and sometimes insistence of parents on taking a particular course, which the students don’t like, are also causing stress and anxiety among youngsters. The easy availability of ganja, through a network of suppliers and online links, comes in handy for them to pick up the habit,” he says.

“The problem begins with the victim disinterested in interacting with those around him, leading to emotional problems, damage to mental health, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and schizophrenia. Our centre is treating patients through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), education, social support and family help and aversion therapy,” says Prof. Raju.

The Government Hospital for Mental Care (GHMC), located in the city, is only tertiary care hospital for mental care in Andhra Pradesh. It has qualified psychiatrists and the facilities required to deal with such cases.

The Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) Centre, which was inaugurated on January 6, 2020, at GHMC, is a boon to those addicted to injected drugs. The centre has a psychiatrist, a data manager, counsellor and a staff nurse to take care of the patients. Most of the patients, who have taken treatment at the OST have been completely cured and are leading normal lives now.

A total of 124 persons had registered for treatment at OST from January to December 2020 and the number reached 165 by the end of November, 2021. There was, however, a decline in new registrations during 2021, which can be attributed to fears of patients in visiting hospitals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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