Indian Journal of PsychiatryIndian Journal of Psychiatry
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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 61  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 208-212

Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, and addiction treatment: Potential pitfalls and trepidations

Department of Psychiatry, National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Atul Ambekar
Department of Psychiatry, National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi - 110 029
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_463_18

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The Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA), 2017, is enacted with an aim to promote and protect the rights of and improve the care and treatment for people affected by mental illness in India. The Act purportedly includes substance use disorder (SUD) specifically in the definition of mental illness itself. However, some of the phrases used in the definition such as “abuse” are not clear, as the current classificatory systems of mental illnesses do not have any diagnostic category termed “abuse.” Another important issue is the lack of clarity on which categories of SUD would be covered under MHCA. Simple reading of the text of the Act seems to suggest that SUD is a single entity for the purpose of this law. In such case, many provisions of the act such as supported admission that are meant for the treatment of people with severe mental illnesses with gross impairment may become applicable to all types of SUD. This can create potential problems for addiction treatment providers. On the other hand, certain other provisions of the Act are good news for patients suffering from SUD. The Act lays down various rights that include, among others, protection from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in any mental health establishment. This is very important from the perspective of treatment of SUD in the context of India, where human rights violations in the name of addiction treatment are often reported. The inclusion of SUD in MHCA, 2017, slots SUD as a health issue, rather than a law-and-order issue alone. This displays the intent of policymakers toward SUD, which, in itself, is laudable. There are certain ways in which the potential pitfalls mentioned earlier can be addressed, which is discussed in the article.



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