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Book Says India Must Allow Use Of Native Intoxicants

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Book Says India Must Allow Use Of Native Intoxicants


NEW DELHI – Rampant addiction to substances may seem like a contemporary problem, but the use of psychotropic intoxicants long predates the awareness of the menace of drug addiction.

Dispelling common myths surrounding addiction, and delving into the new understanding of the issue and the menace it has come to be, Dr Anirudh Kala, a psychiatrist, in his third book ‘Most of What You Know About Addiction Is Wrong’ (published by Speaking Tiger), presents a meticulously detailed, comprehensive and insightful account of the very phenomenon of engaging in psycho-active substances and what leads it to become the menace of addiction.

“People took opium and were by and large functional. You could have a four-hour-long discussion with someone on politics and be surprised that he is regularly opiated,” he said.

The difference, though, is that people are dying from an overdose, and getting infected with hepatitis and HIV from shared needles, Kala said, pointing out that jails have a significant number of inmates held for drug-related crimes, but these are the people who need treatment and rehabilitation.

Dr Atul Ambekar, a fellow psychiatrist who has also written the foreword to Kala’s book, highlighted the “draconian” NDPS Act and how it is not the solution but the major contributor to rampant addiction, which is both a public health concern and a policy matter.

“Usage does not mean addiction,” he clarified. “We socialize over drinks, but we may not be alcoholics.” Explaining further, he emphasized the fundamental human need for an altered state of mind from time to time.

“It is a common need to periodically want to feel different, as much as a human needs food or sex or sleep. Some people use art, rock climbing, mysticism (for this purpose),” he said, marking a shift from substance to behavior, both of which could lead to addiction.

“It becomes an addiction not from regular use but from its salience — when a lot of mind space is taken up by the intoxicant,” Ambekar emphasized. “Addiction is as much a disease as diabetes or hypertension is.”

The experts also highlighted the predisposing factors for addiction: traumatic experiences and genetics are significant determinants of who gets addicted and who doesn’t.

Contrary to common perception, however, they maintain that mere availability of substances may have an impact on its use, but not on its addiction: “Alcohol is freely available but most Indians are teetotalers.”

The problem of drugs is a problem of policy.

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