Shujjat, a 17-year-old student and heroin addict, was forcibly admitted to a rehabilitation centre located in the suburbs of Islamabad by his family back in August 2016. He had been to the same rehab a year back when he underwent a detoxification process for three months to shed his heroin addiction.
“This time, no matter what, I won’t relapse. I am done with heroin and charas (hashish). I swear I won’t even smoke a saada (plain) cigarette,” he said while talking to this scribe on a visit to one of many private rehabilitation centres that offer counselling services and detoxification to psychiatric patients and drug addicts respectively.
Scores of rehabilitation centres that offer treatment for drug abuse, psychiatric disorders, alcohol addiction, stress management, and other mental ailments are located in twin cities. Many of them are situated in rented or owned houses in densely populated residential areas like Chak Shahzad, Bani Gala, Khana Pul, Ghori Town, Satellite Town, Chaklala, Khyaban-e-Sir Syed, and CDA sectors of Islamabad. Many of these rehabs offer different ‘packages’ ranging from 1,000 rupees a day to as much as 10,000 for a single day. The packages depend wholly on the financial capacity of the patient’s guardian and facilities like a separate room, better food and individual caretaker.
The number of psychiatric patients in these rehabs is far less than drug addicts, the majority of whom hail from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The heroin and hashish addicts outnumber alcoholics and psychiatric patients in every single rehabilitation centre.
Psychiatric patients are involuntarily interred by their parents, friends, children or spouses. Patients suffering from depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, suicidal ideation and a history of self-harm, on the recommendation of a psychiatrist, are admitted to these rehab centres, as most government and private hospitals lack psychiatric wards.
The last time government released a survey report documenting the drug use in Pakistan was more than three years ago in 2013; the latest surveys and reports put the number of heroin addicts at around 3 million. While on a whole a whopping 8.9 million individuals are drug dependent in Pakistan.
A huge number of drug addicts fall into the category of ‘repeat customers’, as they’ve been to rehabs multiple times before. The relapse rate of heroin addicts, according to a study conducted by Ayub Medical College with a sample size of 100 heroin addicts, is more than 77 per cent.
Many of these rehabilitation centres take benefit of poor governmental regulations, lack of checks and balances by concerned governmental bodies, and a lack of rehabilitation facilities at government hospitals.
In Islamabad Capital Territory, these rehabilitation centres are issued licenses from the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination. While in provinces, the provincial health regulatory bodies issue these licenses. Furthermore, before the issuance of license these rehabs have to register themselves in pursuance of Companies Ordinance, 1984.
“The menace of drug addiction is on the rise for past many years. Previously, the majority of addicts hailed from the poor, working class segments of the society. However, now I have many patients who belong to well-to-do families. The most worrying aspect is students of elite schools and colleges are turning to drugs like heroin and hashish,” said Doctor Naveed, a psychotherapist with 8 years of experience in the field while talking to Pakistan Today.