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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Rehabilitation in Rajasthan
Narain Singh helps an addict
Cold turkey: Narain Singh says he has a high success rate
By Rahul Bedi in Rajasthan

The screams of Rajan Kumar of New Delhi, a heroin addict, cut through the still desert air in western India's Thar desert as withdrawal symptoms wrack his emaciated body.

This is his third day at the opium de-addiction camp at Manaklao outside Jodhpur in the western state of Rajasthan, 400 miles west of New Delhi.

For the next two days Rajan, along with around 60 other junkies - mostly mainly opium addicts - thrashed on his bed, screaming in agony.

The basis of cure here is love, brotherhood and affection

Narain Singh
After four days and nights of unrelenting torture, Rajan awoke feeling slightly stronger in mind and body.

Lying on a string bed in the early morning chill of the desert, the 25-year old lawyers' clerk from a small town in Rajasthan felt victorious over the debilitating powder.

Over all this presides Narain Singh Manaklao, the camp's founder and his army of helpers which includes doctors and nurses.

"The basis of cure here is love, brotherhood and affection" said Singh. The detoxification is not drug-induced but achieved by addicts themselves who are made to realise through peer pressure that they can do without it," he declared.

Local tradition

Imbibing locally-produced opium across Rajasthan has historical sanction dating back to medieval times.

Drought in Rajasthan
Opium helps people survive tough conditions
The warlike Rajput clans of the desert region believed that opium made solders fearless and thickened the blood so that the body bled less when wounded in battle.

There is also the belief that opium increases sexual potency,

And, in this chronically famine-prone desert region there is also the conviction that the opiate helps people work tirelessly.

Over the years, opium taking has also acquired social acceptability.

Idea dismissed

Amazed by the economic deprivation caused by opium addiction depravation, Narain Singh, then a school teacher in eastern Bihar state surveyed the area around Manaklao and found that nearly 70% of men were hooked onto the drug.

He wrote to the government outlining a proposal to start a de-toxification camp. His scheme was dismissed.

Group therapy session
Group therapy is an important element
Determined to rid the area of opium addiction Singh set up his first de-addiction camp at Manaklao in 1979.

Sixteen opium addicts joined and 10 days later left - cured.

Similar camps followed with money raised from local donations and the ensuing publicity assured Singh a steady flow of funds.

Singh, who heads the Non-Governmental Organisation ( NGO ) on Drug Prevention claims an average cure rate of around 70% of which around 20% then relapse back into drug use.

On admittance, each inmate is examined and a case history prepared.

The first and most tortuous of phases lasts three days when the inmate goes "cold turkey", completely giving up drugs.

This leads to severe vomiting, insomnia, cramps, abdominal and chest pains and virulent discomfort.

Mild tranquillisers, vitamins and if necessary fluids are administered

Group therapy

Simultaneously all inmates congregate twice a day for spiritual therapy where they are addressed by Singh whose simple message is: self-help is the only way to kick addiction.

Their moral strength is boosted and with the aid of light yoga exercises and simple food they become physically stronger.

The final three-day phase passes centres around group therapy, expiation and all-round introspection of each one's reason for addiction.

There are no social barriers. Corporate executives sit alongside villagers.

There is no payment, although the cost of rehabilitating each inmate varies between 1,500 rupees ($34) and 2,000 rupees ($46), summer being more expensive due to drought conditions.

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