Opium is big business in India. In 2007 alone, India produced almost 350 tones of raw, legal opium for the international pharmaceutical industry. Despite strict monitoring of poppy farms, some of the opium always makes its way to the black market.
Opium’s ready availability coupled with its use in traditional ceremonies has led to high levels of addiction in the Western state of Rajasthan. At the frontline of this battle is a small detoxification centre. For almost three decades the centre has been helping addicts using unique and sometimes controversial methods.
Sitting on the sand under the relentless desert sun, twenty men are stretching into mountain and lotus poses.
It’s day six of a detox program, at the Opium De-Addiction Treatment Centre in Rajasthan, in India’s west. The men are battling serious addictions but little strain shows on their faces as they follow the directions of their instructor, Narendra Singh Chouhan.
Chouhan says yoga helps ease the men’s withdrawal symptoms, which include muscle spasms, vomiting and insomnia.
“Yoga increases first the mental concentration and gives him peace of mind. It also relaxes the body physically.”
Among the men is 31-year-old Subhash who comes from Haryana – Rajasthan’s neighbouring state. Subhash received no drug education during school and never knew that opium was addictive.
“Most of the labourers in the rice mill where I work are addicted to opium. They started giving me little bits here and there and I started taking it. I didn’t think there would be a problem.”
Two years later Subhash was spending four out of every five dollars he earned to support his habit.
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