Life support: No ‘rations’ for DG Khan’s opium addicts

Addicts complain that excise officials are turning them away even though they have valid medical certificates.

Tariq Ismaeel August 09, 2011


Registered opium eaters in the district have been facing an acute shortage of opium tablets at excise offices in Dera Ghazi khan.

Dozens of opium eaters have appealed for opium tablets and said that many were facing severe withdrawal symptoms. “We have been registered and have a medical certificate to receive opium tablets. Doctors have told us that we could die without them in some cases,” said Shaukat, a registered opium eater who has been addicted to opium for 11 years.

Hospital officials said that over a dozen opium eaters in the district had fallen severely ill and come to the hospital appealing for help. “We put them on a drip but that will hardly help. We have even re-issued medical certificates so they can claim the tablets but they have been refused,” said DHQ hospital attending Dr Raza Kashif.

(Read: Pakistanis consume $1.2b of heroin a year: UN)

Several opium addicts told The Express Tribune that they could not survive without an opium supply. “The government took the decision to register opium eaters on the recommendation of doctors but they aren’t following these guidelines,” Raheem Bukhsh said. “I went to the excise offices seven times last month but I was refused. I have been vomiting and I cannot sleep because of the shivering. The doctors have told me they can’t treat me but I no longer know what to do,” he added.

“These people are given tablets on a monthly basis but they keep coming back for more even though they have filled their quota,” said excise officer Mubasshir Ali. “The doctors are making the threat out to be more than it is. They won’t die of withdrawal, they might actually be cured,” he added.

Another officer at the excise department said he had refused some of the addicts because they didn’t deserve help. “These men are drug addicts and we are expected to help them remain drug addicts. Why is the government so concerned with keeping such people alive when it doesn’t care about the poor?” said DG Khan officer Hameed Atta.

There are as many as 94 opium eaters registered with the excise offices in DG Khan. The office is solely responsible for the provision of opium tablets to the addicts but opium eaters say they are being denied tablets. “Sometimes they don’t have enough and other times they refuse us out of spite. Yes, I am an addict but this can’t be cured now. I will die without the pills,” Shaukat told reporters.

Shaukat said that he knew of two addicts who had died from withdrawal symptoms. “No one really cared to investigate that they died because they were denied tablets. Everyone just kept saying they died because they were drug addicts,” he added.

An official deputed for the delivery of the tablets, seeking anonymity, told reporters that the factory where the tablets were made had been closed for several months. “The government cannot really provide opium to make tablets for registered addicts because they used to order the opium from Afghanistan. There has been some issue with the suppliers and they no longer trade with them,” he said. Another official at an opium factory said that the government had ordered an opium supply from a different country and would be able to regularise supply by the end of the month.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2011.


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