It is around 11 am on a weekday when a group of youngsters walk into a room. After a minor argument, the nine boys, all aged between 14 and 18, sit down for a game of carrom. One of them hits the coin arrangement with clinical precision and jumps with excitement as a white piece slips into a pocket.
The de-addiction centre meant for boys below the age of 18 in Chengalpattu — not very far from Chennai — is a place where new bonds are formed and old habits left behind. The Lifeline Centre for Prevention of Children from Alcoholism and Substance (Drug) Abuse — a 15-bed set up by the social defence department, in association with an NGO — is the first deaddiction centre in Tamil Nadu.
The State set up the centre last year after noting that many juveniles in conflict with the law tend to have problems with substance abuse — mainly cannabis and alcohol. A source at the department says, “We wanted to treat and rehabilitate such boys through a dedicated centre. The treatment here is free of cost and has been launched as a pilot project. After three years, when we assess the impact it has had, we will propose starting similar centres in other regions of the State.” Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, has said it is imperative to set up separate facilities to treat such children.
The source adds that the Integrated Rehabilitation Centre For Addicts (IRCAs) functioning in the districts with the support of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment have been unable to tackle addiction among teens and adolescents, making it even more important that the State government set up dedicated centres.
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