The Tale of Drug Addicts Behind the Bars in Punjab
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The Tale of Drug Addicts Behind the Bars in Punjab

In spite of the stringent actions taken by government officials, the state of Punjab remains a slave to the menace of drug addiction. The easy availability of drugs accounts for most drug abuse-related deaths that continue to haunt the state. The problem doesn’t just end here as a recent survey conducted across 25 jails in Punjab revealed that the accessibility of drugs and the growing drug dependency amongst prison inmates is again a worrisome scenario.

The survey is part of the state prison department’s “Punjab Jail Inmates Drug Use and Treatment Survey 2022” program that aims to draw up an effective strategy to overcome this issue.

About the survey:
An initial drug screening drive took place in Punjab in June 2022 which highlighted that about 14,100 of the total 29,916 prisoners i.e., 47% of prisoners in Punjab suffered through the problem of drug addiction. As per data, 14 out of 250 women in Ludhiana and 10 out of 172 women in Bathinda were also in the clasp of drug abuse.

The recent study conducted in Punjab under the supervision of special DGP prisons Harpreet Singh Sidhu and jail minister Harjot Singh Bains aims to extensively interview 14,100 prison inmates across 25 jails of the state in a period of 10 days.  A questionnaire consisting of about 85 questions encompassing different aspects like geographical factors, psycho-social factors, socio-economic factors, police specific, prison specific and de-addiction, and peer support specific questions has been framed. A panel of educationists from Punjabi University, Panjab University, ISB Mohali, and DAV College Sector-10 collaborated with Dr. Ranbir Singh, a de-addiction expert and founder of the OOAT program for the purpose of preparing the questionnaire. The questions are so devised that they entail understanding how and what made one try these drugs, how they were able to access them, and other things. As part of the treatment and rehabilitation of those testing positive for drugs, the survey seeks to peep into the root cause of addiction among prisoners.

The interviewers learned several shocking details during the survey. It was seen that drugs were rather easily available inside the jails than one could think of which in turn contributed to the prisoners’ dependency on them. While some inmates revealed using drugs as an escape pertaining to the 18-hour labor undertaken, some others explained how they gave in to peer pressure and slowly became addicted to it. A few inmates said that they were exposed to drugs so early in their lives that they didn’t even know drugs were harmful to their health. The interviewees told how negligence in the state to ask for a doctor’s prescription for some tablets made them easily procurable apart from injections that are popular and relatively cheaper.
The emotional breakdowns between inmates while narrating their stories suggest they were in a dire need of such an opportunity to be heard and let out their bottled-up feelings and intervention like this one would be beneficial in the future policy-making process as well. 

What exactly is drug addiction and how does it affect your mental health?
Drug addiction also known as substance abuse disorder is a neuropsychological illness that mainly affects a person’s cognition, behavior, and ability to comprehend things that he would otherwise be able to exercise control on. Developing a drug dependency generally tends to affect a person’s mental health and may be linked to experiencing anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or any other psychotic disorder. Being under the influence of any substance or drug can make you feel “high” thereby causing the release of several neurotransmitters in the brain that make you further crave the drug despite its negative health consequences. What was once started with an intention of a one-time use to merely explore or try out the drug, now seems to be turning into your worst nightmare. With time and growing usage, one builds a level of tolerance towards the drug and may face severe withdrawal symptoms if one happens to be deprived of it.


Common causes of drug addiction:
1) Genetics and family history of addiction: Seeing your parents and relatives indulging in the consumption of illicit drugs or other substances from a young age makes it but natural for the child to learn the same behavior.
2) Peer pressure: In a bid to gain acceptance and be liked by all, friends can negatively influence you to try your hand at drugs which may later transit into an addiction problem.
3) Troubled relationships: In an attempt to find an escape from troubled relationships with parents, friends, or lovers, one may develop a dependency on drugs.
4) Lack of social support: Not having anybody to share your hardships with and being neglected often by others is something that deteriorates a person’s well-being. Such an individual might silently go through difficult situations and at the same time engage in substance abuse to gain respite.
5) Mental health problems: Suffering from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders and the like can force you to confine yourself behind closed doors and turn to illicit substances to relieve yourself of the pain. 

Other causes that increase drug dependency:
6) Traumatic events 7) Stress 8) Social media 9) Curiosity 10) Low socio-economic status

Some effective strategies to overcome drug addiction:
1. Supportive environment: Surrounding yourself with those who actually care and want to help you overcome your battle with addiction can help you in developing healthy strategies and resist your urges.
2. Developing newer hobbies: Engaging your mind in activities like gardening, painting, dancing, and writing not only makes you feel more empowered but also is useful in bringing out the best of you by distracting yourself from your addiction problems.
3. Talk therapy: Expressing yourself to your loved ones and speaking your heart out can allow you to free up your mind and also let others understand your recovery process.
4. Professional guidance: In case you have trouble letting go of your addictive behaviors, seeking professional help from psychologists or psychiatrists can be effective and provide you a safe way to resort to a normal state of being and also prevent relapse in the future.  

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