The government has taken up a project to construct seven 200-bed drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation centres in seven divisions, under the Department of Narcotics (DNC).
The aim of the project is to provide treatment to drug addicts and train them on technical work, said DNC sources.
The government-funded Tk 833.48 crore project of DNC was initiated last year, and is scheduled to be completed in 2023, said officials.
This is the first time DNC is incorporating rehabilitation facilities into its programmes, said a DNC official involved with the project’s implementation.
Apart from this, DNC has also undertaken another Tk 167 crore project to turn the 124-bed Central Treatment Centre in the capital’s Tejgaon into a 200-bed treatment and rehabilitation centre.
Director General of DNC Muhammed Ahsanul Jabbar said the treatment and rehabilitation centres at divisional levels are the need of the hour to prevent the ever growing cases of drug abuse.
“Providing treatment through these specialised centres, we hope good health and welfare will be ensured for many,” he told The Daily Star recently.
“After treatment, our patients will be able to get back to normal, work-oriented life with the technical training they acquire from the centres,” he added.
The DG said DNC is also planning to initiate a project for rehabilitation of petty drug sellers in cooperation with the Department of Youth Development and the Department of Social Services, in order to help them reintegrate into society.
“We have seen that unemployment and the resulting frustration are major causes of drug relapse. This is why we will provide technical training so that chronic drug users can earn money with the knowledge,” another DNC official said, wishing anonymity.
Referring to data disclosed at a programme by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a DNC study in June 2018 said more than 7 million people suffer from drug addiction in Bangladesh, of whom 25 percent are below 15 years.
According to another baseline study on drug addiction in Bangladesh conducted by DNC in 2017, majority of drug users are either students (25.9 percent) or unemployed (25.2 percent).
DNC officials said the new drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation centres will provide training on different technical subjects like computer learning, designing and different technical courses along with treatment.
The centres will also have gymnasiums and residential facilities for doctors and nurses.
DNC officials said the project has been undertaken at a time when drug abuse and trafficking is growing alarmingly, despite the government declared zero tolerance against narcotics.
According to rights organisations, some 588 people were killed during the government’s anti-narcotics crackdown between May 2018 and August 25 last year.
Currently, DNC has a 124-bed Central Treatment Centre in Tejgaon and three other treatment centres with 25 beds in each centre in Rajshahi, Khulna and Chattogram.
Besides, there are 359 private drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation centres in 45 districts with a total of 4,618 beds.
However, the quality of service provided at many of these treatment centres have raised questions in the past.
After the killing of Anisul Karim Shipon, a senior assistant superintendent of police, at Mind Aid Hospital in Adabor in November last year, floodgates were opened for accusations that drug rehabilitation centres and mental hospitals in Dhaka physically torture patients.
The hospital was operating as a mental health hospital along with treating drug addiction, though it had no licence for either.
Talking to The Daily Star, Dr Mekhala Sarkar, associate professor of psychiatry in National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), said firstly drug addiction is a mental affliction which ought to be treated by a psychiatrist.
But if anyone commits a criminal activity while under drug influence, police will definitely look into it, the psychiatrist told this newspaper.
“If anyone gets involved in crimes like drug trafficking there must be legal intervention. But to solve the key problem he or she has to be brought under treatment. A psychiatrist will decide whether he or she needs rehabilitation or treatment at home,” she added.
“It needs an overall assessment through diagnosis of the problems and it may differ from person to person. Rehabilitation may not even be necessary for everyone,” said Dr Sarkar.