Aimed at eliminating scourge of drugs from the State, Punjab Government — in partnership with the Special Task Force — has launched a Peer Support Network for inmates with a substance use disorder or addicts in 19 Punjab prisons starting from this month.
“These 19 prisons cater to more than 95 percent of the addict prisoners and the Peer Support Network will be extended to rest of the six jails in near future,” said the state’s Jails Minister Harjot Singh Bains on Friday.
Bains said that Peer Support is one of the three essential pillars of Outpatient Opioid Assisted Treatment (OOAT) model — medication, peer support, and counselling. “It is vital in assisting victims of drug abuse from staying away from drugs and undergoing successful de-addiction treatment,” he said.
“It is an important part of recovery process as per evidence based best practices at the national and international level. Peer Support network will be established, in association with Narcotics Anonymous (NA) – an international non-profit fellowship or society for helping men and women to tackle drug abuse,” said Bains, adding that the fellowship does not promote itself, but rather attracts new members through public information and outreach.
The Minister said that Narcotics Anonymous uses a 12-step model developed for people with varied substance used disorders. “NA suggests that drug addiction can be prevented and recovery is possible through the NA 12-step program. In this field, it has 70,000 active volunteers who are spread over 144 countries and in India, it has an extensive network and in Punjab itself meetings are held regularly,” he added.
He said that peer support meetings in jails have been launched by various teams of NA with about 1,540 inmates attending these in 19 jails. “Each team of NA consists of four to five volunteers, who will hold the meetings in 19 shortlisted jails for a few days every week. Frequency of meetings will be increased once the number of attendees who are willing to join Peer Support Network rises,” he added.
Bains said that these volunteers of NA are organising meetings in Jails without charging any fees their sole aim being to provide support to those with substance use disorders (SUD)/addicts.
“It is aimed to eventually train inmates on how to run meetings themselves as per the NA system. Written material or literature printed at the jail press will be circulated to inmates who need this support,” he said, adding that at the state-level, it is aimed to gradually establish the peer support network in all de-addiction centers or rehabilitation centers and OOAT clinics in the State.