Drugs use increases in Kachin State

Tun Lin Aung (Myitkyiina)
Caption: Drugs rehabilitation center in Myitkyin Township in Kachin State

Drugs addiction is on the rise in Kachin State and yet there is only one treatment center for drugs addicts in Myitkyina. Therefore, the admisson line to the center have become remarkably high and patients are literally lining to be hospitalized.

There are 18 stations that provide Methadone for easing of drug addiction.

The centers for drugs addicts in Myitkyina can accommodate up to 100 patients and at present, 110 patients are being treated there. Another 20 patients are on the reserved list to get treatment.

“It is normal occurence that more drugs addicts are admitted in this season as there are more arrests made and is also difficult for them to get money to feed their addiction in this rainy season. When social and civic organizations sent 5 or 10 drug addicts here, it became a little over crowded. While we don’t have the final data for August, more patients are hospitalized than the ordinary period. In June, there were 22 drug addicts and in July, we received 53.  For more than 20 drug addicts, we asked their addresses and contact numbers in order to contact them later as the center couldn’t accommodate more. The center’s capacity is at 100 bed but we currently have 94 beds for drugs addicts and 16 for Methadone users totaling 110 beds. There are around 800 who are consuming Methadone. There are 5 to 8 females amongst them. In the entire Methadone centre, there are a total of 6338 Methadone addicts being treated. The number increases year after year. For treating drugs addicts, a person has to stay 25 days at the center (hospital). Although government has provided to some extent, the amount is very few and so the hospital collected Ks.6000 per person for treatment. After treating drug addicts, we must go directly for rehabilitation. Now, we couldn’t turn to rehabilitation,” said Dr. Tint Naing, medical superintendent of the Hospital.

A methadone addiction can turn healthy, happy people into dependent, depressed versions of themselves. Knowing what to look for in a methadone addict can help you or someone regain control of life. Methadone is most commonly used to curb cravings for addictions to other opiates, such as heroin. Starting within the past decade or so, the drug was increasingly prescribed as a painkiller for moderate to severe pain. Methadone is often seen as a necessary evil for addicts who need to overcome a much more dangerous addiction.

In Kachin State, use of drugs such as heroin, opium and brown opium are higher and at present, use of stimulant tablets are widespread in the area.

“Use of drugs lead to disadvantages, if one uses heroin, it cost much. Injection of heroin can cause Hepatitis B and C, and HIV/AIDS. When use of stimulant tablets, it can cause delusion or deprive of sleep. It can also cause depression or other psychotic diseases because it affects Neuron system. For treatment, it will take at least 6 months or 1 year,” said Dr. Tun Kyaw Zin, Psychiatrist doctor from Myitkyina Drugs Rehabilitation Center (Hospital).

UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) according to 2015 data said that drugs addicts who apply injection is more than 83000 and 29 percent are infected with HIV/AIDS. In Kachin State, there is over 3000 intravenous drug users and 35 percent are infected with HIV/ AIDS. For 2018, the situation may worsen than the current amount.

Some research suggests injecting has become more popular in Kachin State than traditional opium-smoking among some of Kachin's tens of thousands of users, as it delivers a more cost-effective “high”.

The Substance Abuse Research Association (SARA) is a registered national-level local NGO in Myanmar. They have taken the lead on introducing tools to community-based prevention intervention research in the field of drug abuse and drug abuse-related HIV in Myanmar.

The main goal of SARA’s harm reduction program is to prevent a rise in blood-borne diseases spread by the use of shared needles.

SARA's Harm Reduction Projects are implemented six townships of Kachin Region namely, Myitkyina, Namatee, Hopin, Mohnyin, Momauk and Aung Myin Thar Townships. There are over 8000 intravenous drug users and 26 percent are infected with HIV/AIDS.

According to the data collected by Kachin State police station, there are 1352 cases of drugs cases arrested till mid August 2018. In 2017, a total of 1814 cases were filed.