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June 01, 2018 Friday 04:25:37 PM IST



One of the most disturbing facts of our times is the alarming number of young persons who abuse a substance, alcohol, or gadgets. There are an estimated 70 million drug abusers in India. This problem is likely to get out of hand unless the government, NGOs, and the general public work together wholeheartedly to address and reverse the destructive trend.


Psychological and environmental factors play a major role alongside genetic predisposition and a range of other factors. However, some researchers observe that addiction is not a pathology in the sense that the mainstream promotes; rather, it is more of a misguided search for wholeness and belonging. In other words, ‘addicts are trying to open the right door, they are simply using the wrong key’.


There are many de-addiction and rehab centres with programmes and processes specific to each one. Generally, they follow a regimen with four phases:


  • The intake during which the substance/alcohol abuse history and other background info are collected and a treatment plan suited to the client needs is ready.
  • Detox is the stage when the toxins are flushed out from your system under medical supervision.
  • Rehab begins after detoxification and the focus at this stage is on physical and mental healing. Individual and family counselling and therapies used as needed.
  • Recovery is a lifelong process and at the rehab stage, one is prepared to take up this long and arduous journey.


One important dimension in any treatment modality is the ‘meaning world’ of the client. Addicts have to be relieved of feelings of meaninglessness, help them transcend the suffering self, to lose acute self-doubt leading to self-awareness, and to get a sense of connection to others and something outside of themselves that matters.


A programme that doesn’t address this existential vacuum may not successfully take away the cause of chronic addiction. As Positive Psychology suggests, addiction recovery should involve more than taking away what is “bad”. It should focus on building something potent and positive to satisfy the unmet needs that caused the drug/alcohol abuse in the first place.


Some steps in this direction are:


  • Promoting positive effect;
  • Building hope;
  • Supporting autonomy;
  • Creating meaningful experiences;
  • Reducing suffering (mental and physical);
  • Reducing acute self-awareness; and,
  • Facilitating to be part of something bigger than themselves.


The following 13 key principles to be followed in addiction treatment proposed by National Institute on Drug Abuse are worth considering:

  • Addiction not only affects your behaviour but also affects your brain.
  •  Treating addiction as early as possible is important for successful outcomes.
  •  You do not have to go in voluntarily for treatment in order for it to be effective. Many individuals are compelled to go to rehab by the court system, their place of employment, or family or friends — and they are still able to achieve recovery once they go through the programme.
  • There is no one-size-fits all solution to treatment. Different treatments and facilities work more effectively for different people.
  • Effective treatment should holistically address all areas of your life — not just your substance abuse or addiction.
  • Mental health conditions are often linked to drug addiction and should also be evaluated and addressed in your treatment.
  • Treatment programmes should also look out for any coexisting infectious diseases, such as HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis.
  •  You must commit enough time to treatment in order to effectively overcome your addiction.
  • Physical detox is important, but it is only the first stage of treatment. Long-term behavioural change usually requires a process of behavioural therapy and ongoing support.
  • The most common form of treatment is behavioural therapy, which may involve some combination of group, family, and individual therapy.
  • Pharmaceutical treatment is often necessary in conjunction with therapy.
  • Good treatment programmes will monitor you for any possible relapses throughout the course of treatment.
  • Treatment plans should be continually revised to meet your changing needs and circumstances.

  • Dr. Jose Cletus Plackal

    Licensed clinical psychologist, BET-MRT, Jeevas Centre, Aluva, Kerala.

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