Dr. Vandana Das | Photo: PTI
Drugs like Heroin, Amphetamines, and Cocaine, when consumed in excess, impart in the user a feeling of enormous strength, endurance, and reckless courage that can make the person go on a murderous rampage. Such savage rashness is attributed to the “chemical courage” that only consuming narcotic drugs can give. On May 12 th 2023, Keralites were shocked to learn about the brutal stabbing of Dr. Vandana Das, a 25- year-old House Surgeon, at Kottarakkara Taluk Hospital, in Kollam District, who was repeatedly stabbed with surgical scissors and a scalpel, by a drug addict, brought to the hospital by the Police for treatment of injuries to his hands and legs. In the wild rampage, the helpless young lady doctor died of multiple stab wounds. The accompanying policemen and a relative of the accused killer received injuries. Dr. Vandana Das, thus became the first health professional martyr in the State of Kerala. The cause of the death was four stab wounds she received on her chest and back, including a deep wound on her lung. She suffered a total of 17 stab wounds on her body.
The above incident is reminiscent of a similar incident that occurred in Mangalore in July 2019. An MBA student, named Deeksha, was repeatedly stabbed 12 times. Nurse, Nimmy Stephen, working in the casualty department at JKSH Charitable Hospital, Deralakatte, exhibited exemplary courage, to rush to her rescue, while onlookers were gazing at the gory spectacle. Boldly, the nurse unmindful of her own life rushed to the girl and managed to pull her away from the frenzied killer. However, Dr. Vandana Das was not so lucky, as none of the policemen or the hospital staff on duty, ventured to her rescue. The police officers who brought Sandeep to the hospital, fled from the scene fearing for their lives!
The killer of Dr. Vandana Das, named Sandeep, was reportedly a hardcore alcoholic and could have been a drug addict also, opines the treating doctors.
Drugs like Amphetamines, Heroin, and Cocaine are psychostimulants. These drugs numb fear, induce bravado, enhance strength, promote alertness, and alleviate pain, hence a favourite among terrorists. The ISIS militants were reportedly high on Captagon, a deadly drug, which they consumed pervasively, while also pumping themselves full of cocaine, heroin, and hashish. It is a potent cocktail, transforming young men into highly stimulated, ferocious, and seemingly crazed fighters.
While it is understandable that fighters, militants, and terrorists use drugs to get an extra dash of courage, individuals consuming drugs and attacking lovers and doctors, is difficult to comprehend.
All daily drug users will display aggressive behaviour, if there is a discontinuity in the consumption pattern. Drug withdrawal symptoms are the body’s reaction to the sudden absence of drugs. Anyone who uses drugs continuously for a long time develops a tolerance for and dependence on them. Their body gets accustomed to functioning under the influence and eventually needs drugs to assist them in their daily routine. When they stop using drugs, their body revolts. Drugs interact with the brain and body in very complex ways. These interactions produce the highs that keep people hooked and demanding for more. The body tolerates, adapts, and incorporates these drugs over time to maintain a stable and balanced internal condition. But that internal system goes haywire if drug intake gets disrupted for any reason.
Not all drugs are the same and not all drug users are the same. Different types of drugs affect users in different ways. The exact type of drug withdrawal symptoms will depend on the drug used. Fatigue and lethargy are common symptoms caused by many drugs, as also excessive sweating, and feeling cold. Muscle pains and spasms are seen when withdrawing from drugs like opiates or muscle relaxers. Behavioural symptoms include agitation, irritability, and frustration when withdrawing from drugs. Short temper and anger are routinely exhibited by those withdrawing from drugs. Psychological symptoms are the impacts that drug withdrawal has on mood, well-being, and mental health. Much like agitation and frustration are common responses, a lack of a daily quota of drugs, causes anxiety and nervousness. Hallucinations, paranoia, and delirium also occur frequently. Powerful drugs like Opiates, Heroin, Amphetamine, Cocaine often cause life-threatening drug withdrawal symptoms.
Substance use disorders (SUDs), a medical condition defined by the uncontrollable use of drugs have been associated with a range of adverse outcomes, including suicide, premature death, comorbid mental illness, and violence. Many drug users indulge in physical assault, using a weapon to attack another person and other violent crimes. The kind of mindless assault that Dr. Vandana Das had to undergo, at the hands of her assailant, could be due to SUD, which will need confirmation by medical experts.
Dr. Vandana Das died in the line of duty, neither the police nor the hospital staff lifted a little finger to save her. She died in harness, the least that the government could do was to give her parents handsome compensation, for the gruesome killing that she suffered, during her duty hours in her workplace. Unfortunately, even for getting a decent compensation, Courts must be approached, in this State where:
“Important men become martyrs, unimportant one’s victims. The important men were given televised funerals, public days of mourning. Their deaths inspired the creation of art and the destruction of cities. But unimportant men were killed to make the point that they were unimportant - that they were not even men - and the world continues on.” ― Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half: A Novel
The author is former Director General of National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes & Narcotics