There is said to be over an estimated half a million people in Pakistan that are addicted to Heroin. That’s the equivalent to a shocking 1 in 40 of Pakistan’s population being hooked on the demon drug. What’s even more concerning is the lack of treatment facilities to help these people get clean, and for those lucky enough to access support, the treatment is painful and like something out of the dark ages or a horror film.
Limited treatment services
Pakistan’s government cannot afford to buy and supply expensive medicines such as Subutex or Methadone as a substitute for Heroin as stock standard. A heroin addict’s chance of getting and staying clean are slim to none. The only free treatment that is available is to be locked up and withdraw from the drug cold turkey, with Paracetamol as the only form of medicinal pain relief.
The EDHI Foundation is one of Pakistan’s only forms of free treatment for Heroin addicts. With only 6 centres across the whole of Karachi, one of Pakistan’s main towns, they treat up to 4,500 patients at any one time. They don’t have the funding for substitute medications or pain relief and the centres resemble something between a war time hospital and 18th Century Jail. Bodies writhing in pain from withdrawal are strewn across make shift beds and cold concrete floors. Their only pain relief is Paracetamol. Most of the patients are there against their own free will, they have been referred by their families, desperate for them to stop their addiction. They have no choice, as once admitted they are locked behind bars until the detox is completed.
As with any kind of addiction, unless there is a psychological aspect to a treatment program to tackle the reasons and issues under pinning the addiction, a detox is rarely enough. As a result there is a constant stream of patients that pass through the EDHI centres time and time again. Addiction is a two-fold illness, part physical and part mental, once the physical addiction has been removed through a detox, it is imperative that the mental part of this illness is treated and rehabilitated. Otherwise the addicts mind will take them back to using once more, sometimes within a matter of hours after being detoxed. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and with little funding to support rehabilitation, in Pakistan this is as good as it gets!
Benefits of being British
I know us Brits are renown for our moaning and criticizing, but even the most sceptical among us with breath a sign of relief that our own NHS services are not like Pakistans. I have to say it does put things in to perspective. Our NHS services may not be what we want them to be, nor meet the demand for rehabilitating addicts and alcoholics, but at least there is some form of treatment and rehabilitation available on the NHS that doesn’t replicate Pakistan’s free services. In addition, an increase in private care treatment options, mean that more and more people are able to access inpatient expert help, it’s not just for the rich and famous anymore. For more information on local addiction services or on private treatment, please call our helpline.