Corona virus was able to do one thing in Punjab which many NGOs, doctors and activists and even the Govt could not do – get drug addicts to enroll into rehab.
On account of the lockdown, the supply of heroin, as of other drugs, gradually dried up and whatever little was available, was being sold at unaffordable prices. Unable to bear the pain, some desperate 129,000 individuals enrolled in 341 government and private de-addiction centres across Punjab over a span of 89 days, from March 23 to June 19, during the lockdown. The state government has claimed that these individuals constitute 24% of the 544,000 people who have sought de-addiction treatment in the state since 2017.
Doctors and activists are naturally very happy as it means if movement is restricted and law does its job well, the state, notorious for drug addiction, can emerge out of this reputation. A Govt report had stated that an estimated 720,000 people needed help for opioid-related problems in Punjab in 2017-’18.
As Punjab opens up borders and relaxes movement restrictions, it now poses a greater risk of people falling back into addiction, and taking to drug peddling in the wake of economic uncertainty.