Pubdate: Fri, 11 Mar 2005
Source: Businessworld (Philippines)
Copyright: 2005 BusinessWorld
Bookmark: (Treatment)


After decades of humiliating practices, including hazing, moves to
curb arbitrariness and abuse in the treatment and rehabilitation of
drug users are being enforced by the Department of Health (DoH).

Leading treatment and rehab providers like Martin Infante, executive
director of Self Enhancement for Life Foundation, Inc. (SELF), welcome
the move in an industry largely run by former addicts and few trained

SELF is one of the 82 registered rehabilitation centers and among less
than 20 per cent of treatment providers who comply with the
requirements of the DoH for accreditation following the implementation
of Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of

It is the first time in decades that rehabilitation operators have
been subjected to scrutiny, said Mr. Infante, who established SELF in
1992. It is no secret, for instance, that shaving the locks of
patients and making them don humiliating card board signs are
consequences commonly dished out for those who infracted the rules.

Until the implementation of the new drugs act, treatment centers often
operated without the benefit of an operating manual that spelled out
methods of intervention. Neither was it common practice for these
centers to document actions taken involving the patient.

The new law essentially tries to put more system and science into the
rehabilitation of the substance abuser, said Mr. Infante, who was one
of 30 trainors in Asia selected to standardize drug treatment in the
region under the Colombo plan drug control program. It also stipulates
that staff undergo regular training, the hiring of professionals, bed
space and other physical requirements.

"Most addicts are highly impulsive, spoiled, manipulative and don't
have limits and boundaries," said Mr. Infante.

An effective program not only addresses the physical aspect of
dependency but should also provide the individual with the emotional
skills to cope with reality after treatment.

Of the modes of treatment being used, the therapeutic community (TC)
approach has proven to be the most effective. In SELF's experience,
85% of those who undergo the TC program in its Talisay, Batangas
facility and graduate, are able to kick the drug habit for life.

The program requires that the dependents live together for about a
year so they may participate in structured group processes and
discover their self-worth.

As residents learn to clean, cook and accomplish household chores for
one another, they also learn to be accountable for their behavior, a
prerequisite for the addict who tends to blame everyone else but
himself for his own failings.

As they learn to restore their relations with their loved ones, they
also imbibe communication and planning skills in the TC setting where
there is a highly structured organization.

Explained Mr. Infante: "Structure is crucial to the addict's development.
He has to be taught how to cope with normal life schedules, how to plan
events and activities and to break away from impulsive patterns."

Self has graduated over a hundred thus far. Gino is among those who
recently received a certificate of completion. The 33-year-old chef
was initiated into drugs at age 12 by a classmate. Gino eventually
turned to drugs to catch the attention of his separated parents.

He had been confined three times for detoxification in hospitals and
was enrolled a number of times in rehab programs that lasted for only
about 45 days. Once through with those short courses, he would resume
his double life as chef and drug dealer until the drugs began to
control his life.

His parents brought him to Self in October 2003. Fifteen months after,
Gino is a new man. "When I was brought in I was emotionally,
financially and physically bankrupt. Self gave me back some discipline
in my life because I could not fake it with the people around me,"
says Gino.

Having completed an accredited rehab program, Gino will not have a
record of offense. RA 9165 has seen to it that those who voluntarily
subject themselves to treatment get a clean slate and a fresh start on
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