Addiction Treatment in South Africa (Part 2)

I was recently asked by a local newspaper to comment on drug addiction treatment in South Africa. Part 1 is here, below is Part 2  of their questions and my comments.

7. Why do we have so many overseas (UK) patients coming to South Africa for addiction rehab and alcoholism treatment? (I assume that it’s linked to affordability but are there other reasons?)

Research has proven that for severe dependencies there’s a direct link between the length of treatment and the patient’s ability to remain clean & sober after treatment. And as such coming to SA from abroad certainly has some financial advantages if you choose a quality rehab. I’ve had a high court judge, a Presidents personal bodyguard and homeless people as patients and regardless of their level of functioning & background each has their own specific culture of addiction – all the local people, places and things that they’ve become so unhealthily enmeshed in. Whilst it’s critical to keep the family and significant other stakeholders, such as employers involved, it can be useful be remove the patient from their familiar environment.

I feel it’s important to add that treatment in Africa is in its infancy. So when I speak of a link between the length of treatment and patient’s abilities to remain abstinent, the quality of treatment is the critical factor. Some centres just provide holding bays, pausing the addiction before discharging patients that haven’t undergone any internal shift.
Another unprofessional aspect is that many of these staff are promoted from within the patient ranks. Please ask the people you speak to what their qualifications are.

8. What is the latest trend in drug usage in more privileged communities? (e.g. mostly coke? heroin?)

For centuries people addicted to alcohol and other drugs have been regarded as weak-willed, lacking moral fibre or somehow intellectually deficient. The world’s leading medical associations all agree that addiction is a medical condition, a disease, not a moral weakness. There is some debate as to its complexities and how it impacts on behaviour. What we do know it that once a person is addicted their brain functioning is changed and will never return to a pre-addicted state.

Addiction is the great equaliser – it’s no respecter of age, status, income, race and all the other ways we classify ourselves. Once a person becomes addicted all bets are off, the old idea that certain classes of drugs are used by certain classes of people is entirely untrue.

9. Is it true that smoking marijuana is a stepping stone to stronger/more habit forming substances?

Smoking marijuana can be an entry drug to addiction but so can alcohol. A portion of adolescent behaviour is around testing boundaries and experimentation, doing what adults do. “Do I like driving a car or riding a motorcycle? Would I enjoy smoking cigarettes, drinking beer like the adults I see?”

The teenagers for whom being intoxicated allows them to do things they would be scared to do straight /sober, perhaps socialising for example, this may indicate the potential for addiction.

10. What message would you send to parents who are worried that their kids may start using drugs?

Talk to your children about the risks of alcohol and other drugs. Talk to their friends and their friends parents about your worries. If your concerns are founded, seek outside qualified help as retaining perspective whilst determining the best way forward can be most difficult.

11. In your opinion, what are the essential elements of a ‘good’ drug rehabilitation centre?

It’s critical to have qualified & well motivated staff as these are the people who have their feet in the ground and deliver the day to day programme. I believe a balance of professionals in recovery with appropriate addiction specific counselling skills and professional who have no personal experience of being addicted is very important.

This article was provided by WeDoRecover who provide help for people seeking addiction treatment in South Africa, including detox and addiction rehab.

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