Why are people with addiction being tortured at rehabs?
We are deeply concerned at the death of a patient at a drug rehabilitation centre in Savar. His family alleges that he was tortured to death at the rehab, hours after the 30-year-old was admitted there. The police too suspect he was tortured, based on injury marks on different parts of his body, including face, head and neck. It goes without saying that the owner and employees of the rehab centre must be brought to book—the police cannot be complacent about finding and arresting the owner of the rehab, who, apparently, is on the run.
But beyond the arrest of the person(s) responsible for the untimely death of a man in his prime, we must decry the inhumane treatment of drug addicts at facilities that are supposed to support them and cure them of their dependency on drugs—not beat them out of it! Just last year, a 37-year-old recovering addict's body was discovered in an ambulance in the parking lot of a drug rehabilitation centre in Moulvibazaar. His body, too, showed signs of torture. In 2016, a 27-year-old died of pneumonia after being made to sit in an icebox filled with ice for up to five hours a day—a treatment prescribed by the doctors of his drug rehabilitation centre in Pabna. What sort of rehabilitation programmes are we designing that require torture techniques for people in need of holistic and sensitive treatment of the body as well as the mind?
Unfortunately, when it comes to the issue of drug addiction, most of our interventions are focused on stopping the supply of drugs, rather than in understanding why people become addicted and how to guide them towards a healthy and meaningful life. Meanwhile, according to a Harm International's report titled "The Global State of Harm Reduction 2018," Bangladesh lacks basic facilities, including medications that can save the lives of people overdosing on drugs. The majority of rehabilitation centres—an unknown number of which operate without licenses—are in terrible conditions, overrun with cockroaches, expired food and drugs, and untrained staff.
In our country, people with addiction are treated no better than jail convicts—and our facilities reflect this mindset. We must change this mentality first and foremost. Only then can we design rehabilitation centres that focus on understanding the root causes of addiction, provide sensitive support to addicts and help them recover.