Sunday, December 17, 2017
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At Large

Long-term solution to drug problem

The “real,” effective and long-term solution to the drug problem is not, believe it or not, EJKs, “tokhang,” or any newfangled, fancily named police or military operation.

Killing suspected drug dealers and pushers or just plain users produces only dead people, while the orphans and widow/ers the killings leave behind become prime candidates for a new generation of addicts.

No, the long-term solution to addiction is behavioral modification through the creation of a “therapeutic community” combined with clinical interventions to address the user’s dependence on drugs and other harmful substances and behavior.

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But, as Martin Infante, founder and president of Self Enhancement for Life Foundation (SELF), would himself admit, the process is time-consuming, complicated and subject to ups and downs as the drug dependent or patient struggles with deep-seated issues that underlie the addiction. As Infante once put it: “Relapse is part of recovery.”

A client’s stay at the SELF Center in Talisay, Batangas, ranges from 18 to 22 months, says Infante, with six months of “after-care” during which the graduate joins a work/study program where he or she learns or relearns “discipline and structure” in daily life. A graduate of the program must complete at least one semester in school before being deemed “cured,” adds Infante. And in fact, he says with some astonishment, SELF has so far produced 10 graduates who’ve made it to the Dean’s List in different colleges.

Of course, a “good” postgraduate performance doesn’t guarantee lifelong freedom from drugs or other forms of dependence. In fact, Infante notes, alcoholism is one of the “most difficult” forms of addiction to address or cure. For one, alcohol is far more available and accessible than illicit drugs. Another thing to note is that there is little social condemnation of alcoholism, except perhaps by people most directly affected by it—the alcoholic’s family, work mates and friends.

Still, despite the odds, SELF offers hope to all affected by drugs and other dependencies, including parents, siblings and children, without resorting to the drastic “final solution” of mass killings.

Indeed, SELF is marking its 25th year in September with a series of activities meant to “share its wisdom and experience in a holistic approach to their treatment and rehabilitation,” with the theme “Rekindling Hope and Rebuilding Lives.”

Foremost of these activities is a lecture by Dr. Gregory Bunt, an international expert on addiction medicine, followed by a panel discussion by international practitioners and experts in the therapeutic community approach.

To be held on Sept. 14 at the SMX Aura Function Room 1, the lecture panel will be attended by the families of SELF residents, medical practitioners and students, with slots available for the general public. On Sept. 15, SELF will organize a roundtable with its Council of TC (therapeutic community) Elders and their Asian counterparts, to discuss the future of the TC Federation of South Asia.

But the highlight of the 25th anniversary events, especially for SELF alumni and residents as well as their families, is the fellowship program and show on Sept. 16. It pays tribute to SELF’s 25 years of being a healing community, highlighted by a show mounted by the SELF family and directed by longtime collaborator Fritz Ynfante.

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Founded in 1992 by Infante, himself a former drug user, SELF is dedicated to helping afflicted individuals “recover from various addictions and dependencies and to share the experience of the TC’s success with other groups and individuals in the same mission.”

Indeed, despite its “small scale” approach to rehabilitation, given the time, facilities and personnel needed to work with residents, the SELF program offers a valuable alternative mode to the prevailing law enforcement mentality which views the eradication of human beings—users, pushers and dealers—as the preferred solution.

There is hope for addicts and other dependents. They are human beings, after all, and humanity holds within its core the promise of recovery, change and transformation.

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TAGS: drug problem, EJK, tokhang
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