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Home » From drugs to dreams: Narcotics anonymous helps Chandigarh stay ‘clean’ – The Indian Express

From drugs to dreams: Narcotics anonymous helps Chandigarh stay ‘clean’ – The Indian Express

‘Health for justice, justice for health’ is UN’s cry for International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking observed on June 26 ever year. The theme points towards an approach that brings together health, human rights, criminal justice and social service institutions to combat drug abuse. Narcotics Anonymous, a non-profit fellowship with branches spread all over the globe that helps recovering addicts to stay clean, is a step closer to achieving that global goal.
About NA
Established in 1995, the Chandigarh chapter of NA has seen many addicts come and go for meetings that are held every day. One can call their helpline and find out information about the group and upcoming gatherings, which are mostly held in public facilities like schools, churches, hospitals etc. These meetings witness an attendance of 30-35 people in every meeting. Of these, nearly 20 people are regular attendees and the number of these regular attendees is only increasing. NA Chandigarh chairperson, who, on the condition of anonymity, said, “We have around 400-500 members as part of our fellowship. This indicates that the society is now more aware and families have started urging the addicts in their household to seek our help.” The atmosphere of anonymity and the fact that there is no attendance record allows people to attend these meetings without fear of social repercussions. The organisation runs on funds contributed by members.
The Demographic
According to chairperson, the highest number of members belong to 20-26 years of age, which coincides with findings of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime’s (UNDOC) 2018 report, that cites that drug usage may reach its peak among people from 18-25 years of age.
Varinder Vats, vice-chairperson of NA Chandigarh, talks about the stigma associated with addiction. “It is often difficult to find places for our meetings. As soon as people hear the words ‘recovering addict’, all they focus on is the ‘addict’ part and show apprehension.”
An office-bearer, while debunking the notion that addicts can never recover, says, “When former addicts integrate
themselves into the society, they are accepted by people who are unaware of their past. However, once people find out about their history of drug addiction, it changes their perception and makes negative towards these recovering addicts.”
Vats, who opines that drug addiction is a ‘disease’, adds, “People are sucked into this void without realising the consequences of their actions. The energy rush they get from drugs overshadow the horrific consequences from their consumption. By the time people realise what’s happening, it’s too late.”
The NA meetings see members coming from all parts of the Tricity. “We have a mix of people – some have been using drugs for years, while some also peddled drugs as a consequence of abject poverty or other reasons. Some even relapse. But that is part of the process,” says Vats.
Members undergo a 12-step program, as part of which they get together and share their stories. This opening up is vital. “The society continues to counsel addicts, naively telling them to just stop. But when they attend a meeting with other people who can actually understand their pain, it works miracles,” says a regular attendee of NA meetings.
Miracle Workers
The NA chairperson started consuming drugs when he was just in class 9 and when smoking fascinated him and his peers. “I started consuming alcohol and charas. After a while, I moved on to medical drugs and injections. I reached my lowest point when I got into hard drugs like smack.”
He says, “Like most addicts, I believed that it was a habit that I could give up. NA broke the spell and made me realise that this is not the life I want for myself,’’ says the man who joined NA in 2002 and has been clean since then.
Vats, who’s been a part of the group since 1997, was also introduced to drugs at a very young age. It was only when his physical, financial and social conditions started to fall apart that he decided to quit. “I was hesitant at first, because the shame of being an addict is hard to overcome. But my life took a U-turn upon joining NA.”
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