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Can I get addiction treatment during the COVID-19 lockdown in India?

What to look for and how to find help for addiction and mental health amidst India’s coronavirus crisis

As the COVID-19 situation has developed and affected all of us, we quickly realised that even amidst the lockdown, people around the country would still need mental health and addiction treatment. In fact, many of the situations we all are going through can bring on an even greater need or desire for treatment. However, from a practical perspective, with all of India under lockdown, we began investigating how people would be able to receive the treatment they need during this time.

Our team spoke to a significant number of treatment centres last week to learn more about the current situation “on the ground.” The good news is that detox and psychiatric clinics should fall under essential services and hence rehab centres with these facilities should be able to help patients in need. Based on our conversations with centres across India, you should consider the following factors if you are looking to receive addiction or mental health treatment during this time.

(We’ll be updating this post with new information as we receive it.)

Finding Treatment in Lockdown: Factors to Consider

  • Operational Status: Some centres have temporarily shut down new admissions, while others are still open and willing to take new admissions but only after a thorough check of general symptoms like cold, fever, sore throat etc., investigation on the travel history of the patient and sometimes a doctor’s health certificate. Few detox centres are doing some additional tests like CBC, Chest X-Ray, ESR, and PFC, etc.
  • Safety: Don’t be afraid to ask a treatment centre what they are doing to ensure that you or your loved one can get treatment without risk of getting coronavirus. Many that we spoke to are taking serious measures, which should greatly mitigate the risk of taking part in treatment.
  • Logistics: Logistics didn’t seem like a big challenge in many parts of the country. Some of the centres are considering ambulances, a few have used their own pickup vehicles and few are able to issue certificates to the patients travelling on their own.
  • Existing patients: Stay for many of the patients are being planned to be extended because of the lockdown. Centres are very careful and sensitive about the health of their existing patients and all of them have implemented checks and procedures to avoid infection to their staff and patients.
  • Staff Availability: There is a challenge of staff coming to the centres and hence many of them are operating out of a very limited support team. Some staff are either scared to come or are not able to commute because of the lockdown restrictions. Other residential centres have been more proactive, having their treatment staff live on-site during the lockdown.
  • Online options: There are centres which are providing some online counselling options for stress and anxiety but most rehabs believe that a patient of addiction can not be treated without being physically present for the program. Although the Government very quickly came up with a telemedicine practice guidelines, this may not be sufficient for cases when serious medication is involved for treatment of de-addiction.
  • Expectations from the Government: For the future, there is hope that the Government will address the specific needs of de-addiction and rehab at some point in time and might provide some guidelines and directions. Some centres which are operational have written to the local authorities and have formally informed them about their state of operation during the lockdown period.
  • Essential services: Technically, many centres which are either hospitals or clinics come under essential services and hence can operate.

If going to a rehab centre looks like a difficult choice for you at this point and you are struggling with your withdrawals or are afraid of the same, you might consider a visit to a nearby detox centre. From what we understood, most of the detox centres are open and a few of them are helping their patients by issuing online passes to allow them with police verification during travel.

But, talking about rehabs doesn’t completely give us a picture of the overall scenario in mental health and de-addiction. We still have three other broad areas to address:-

  • NA and AA meetings which have been done in-person so far with millions of people benefitting from it across the globe
  • People going for mental health counsellors for stress, anxiety and depression
  • Mental health in the new state of lockdown & uncertainty which is expected to trigger some challenges

Online Options

Fortunately, just like everything else going online now, a lot of activities in the space of mental health and de-addiction are also going online. Many of the AA and NA meetings are being moved to digital platforms like zoom. The existing platforms which provide online counselling in mental health have picked up and many counsellors who never tried online approaches have started exploring ways to reach out to their patients and the people looking for help.

Here are some of the resources to look for online AA and NA meetings for India:-

For people looking for help related to stress, anxiety and depressions here are some of the online counselling and therapy options from India:-

Moving Forward

It’s a fast-moving situation and we’re working to figure out which centres are open and which ones are offering alternative treatment options. We will ensure that we keep providing you up to date information on this through deaddictioncentres.in.

We have also lined up a series of webinars which will be live and open to all. Please sign up here to stay updated. If you are someone offering or planning to offer online counselling and therapy please join our directory on this link, so that our users who are looking for help can reach out to you and we can engage you for some of our activities including webinars.

We encourage everyone who is looking for help in de-addiction and mental health to explore the available options, be aware of how things are changing and reach out for help. Mental health is a basic need which is well known and understood by all of us. We believe that, just like all others, the de-addiction and mental health community in India and the world at large are also embracing the change and we are all together in this.

We all are moving forward with hope, reaching out for help and are connected together for a better future.