At 8 in the morning, a huge crowd had gathered at Guru Nanak Dev hospital’s ORT de-addiction clinic in the heart of Amritsar. Soon after the hospital gates were opened, the crowd rushed in to get their dose of buprenorphine – a milder opiate based medicine which is used to wean away heroin addicts.
Most of these people, who queue up every day for their daily dose of free medicine, are from humble backgrounds, factory workers, loaders, drivers, farmers but there are some better offs too.
All those who use injectable Heroin can enrol at this centre set up with assistance of National AIDS control organisation (NACO) in 2010. The centre already has close to 1,700 patients registered of which almost 600 visit the centre daily.
The patients are supposed to keep the power tablets under their toungue for at least five minutes for it to get dissolved in their blood and it is only after that they leave the hospital premises.
Instead NDTV found out that addicts were rushing out of hospital soon after they were given the medicine.
On following them, it was revealed that outside in a parking lot, where many such addicts assemble, they spat out the medicine on to small papers or 10-20 rupees notes which they carefully roll up and keep for selling it to anyone looking for a ‘dose’ at night. Each such roll is sold for Rs. 100.
It doesn’t stop at buprenorphine, in the parking area a range of drugs from Charws at Rs. 300 to ‘Chitta’ which literally means white and the street name for heroin for Rs. 4,000 for a gram were available.
“We try and ensure that the patients eat their medicines and have even installed CCTV cameras for this purpose. However there are some patients who try and beat the system and if we find out we try and ensure that they don’t repeat this, we even withdraw their medicine as punishment,” said Dr Arshdeep Kaur, who along with the some councillors is leading the fight against drug.