Letters on drug rehabilitation

Dear Editors,

I wish to point out some serious factual errors in the article “The Paateys: Heroin Addiction in the Maldives” dated January 13, 2005

“After your first few uses of Brown Sugar, the body will builds up a tolerance to the drug, which means you need to take more and more to get the same high you did on your first go” = not everybody necessarily develops a tolerance.

“If you voluntarily go to the Narcotics Control Board and report that you have a problem you won’t go to jail, but you’ll be put under house arrest until a place is available at the Maldives’ only rehab clinic and there you will be held for up to a year.” = volunteer cases are handled with top priority and they are sent almost on the same day as they come in. Usually the delay is on the volunteer’s part or the family’s wish, for the volunteer to spend a day or two getting ready for the trip.

And in the case that there is no space for a volunteer in the rehab center, which I haven’t come across, quiet honestly, I don’t see the reason why that person should be put under house arrest and hopefully you are aware of the fact that NNCB (previously NCB) has no such authority to put people under house arrest!

The other factor is that, people rarely stay in the rehab for a year. They are usually out in 6 months or so. The length depends on the progress of the client.

“The only rehabilitation centre in the Maldives has been described as more of a jail than a rehab centre.” = I wonder whether you actually talked to people who have been to both the Jail and the Rehab? Only such a person could tell you the differences.

“Drugs councillors are usually recruited between the ages of 17-20 and many are school drop-outs. They are approached by the Narcotics Control Board, who, after sending them on a counselling crash-course for 6 months, will let them loose on the patients. I don’t see how you can properly train a drug-addiction councillor in six months, especially if they are dealing with serious cases of addiction” said the drugs councillor.

= When recruiting counsellor’s for NCB, the position is advertised in the newspapers. It is clearly stated that they should have had at least C grade passes in at least 2 O/level subjects, and a pass in Dhivehi and Islam (minimum D). Is that what you call school drop outs?

I was one of the first five counsellors recruited to be trained as a drug counsellor and I had 4 A/level passes at that time. I dare you to name one person who is currently employed by NNCB and who is a counsellor. Of course I don’t mean for you to include a couple of counsellors who, finished their Rehab term and because of their good behaviour and commitment to the on going treatment and their interest in the field of counselling were given chances, Yes these kids were school dropouts, they were also “drug addicts”, but NCB takes the initiatives to give these kids a second chance to be productive citizens. It would be nice for you to appreciate that too.

And yeah the “crash course” yeah, initially they do undergo, a 6 month course but you forgot to mention the training follow-ups. they are sent to the nearby regions for further training courses, namely to Malaysia, Singapore, India and Sri Lanka and New York.

Training to become a counsellor takes a lot of time and studies. perhaps you are mistaking the trainee counsellors for the counsellors? NCB only gives the job of a counsellor for degree holders. I only got that job title after I finished my first degree. The other relevant designations are , counsellor trainee, assistant counsellor gr1, gr2, and counsellor gr1, and gr2. So next time, please don’t choose to “diss” on the people who are
trying hard to get something done!

The care available to those who are able to get a place at the rehab centre is also far from sophisticated. The ‘treatment’ is to go ‘cold turkey’, which essentially means locking a patient in a room without access to any drugs and where the patient is unable to commit suicide. = Clients are never locked up. True, when we didn’t have a detoxification center (which you have not mentioned in your article), clients were only given mild pain killers and other relevant medication.

I am just wondering whether you are even aware of the existence of a Detoxification center? Are you aware that NCB has had its own psychiatrist (not counting the frequent visits from Dr. Eswaran – the IGMH psychiatrist). NCB also has its own clinical psychologist. There are four counsellors with bachelors degrees (two currently studying for masters degrees), two assistant counsellors with diplomas, two trained from the famous Daytop in New York and others trained from Pengasih/Malaysia and four from Pertapis /Singapore. A lot of them had undergone training in TTK hospital in India, and from NIMHANS/ Bangalore, India and the rest from countless little training programs.

It is always disheartening for me to see, us the people who work in the field, constantly blamed for everything under the sun.

You have mentioned a lot of good stuff in your article such as the social problems. But a good article gets bad because of factual errors in it.