THE LAW itself pushes drug dependents into their own pitfall.

Representatives of the treatment and rehabilitation centers (TRCs) across the country brought up problems such as conflicts with the courts in the “National Conference on Trends and Practices in the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Drug Dependents in the Philippines: Some Policy Implications” from Nov. 15 to 17 at Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros.

According to Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) legal consultant Cesar Posada, the “unreasonable intrusions and interventions of the court” only hinder the healing process of confined drug users.

“Most problems are usually rooted in the implementation of the voluntary submission program that needs a Temporary Confinement Order from the court in order for the TRC to confine a drug dependent,” Posada said. “Apparently, some courts do not honor such orders.”

Section 61 of Republic Act (RA) 9165, also known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, states that “any person determined and found to be dependent on dangerous drugs shall, upon petition by the [Dangerous Drugs] Board or any of its authorized representatives, be confined for treatment in any center.”

Posada pointed to miscommunication between DDB and the courts, which often affect the admission of drug dependents into rehabilitation programs in TRCs.

“We have some cases when the court ordered for discharge without the recommendation of the TRCs,” he said. 

According to Section 54 of RA 9165, a patient can only be temporarily released at least six months after confinement for treatment and rehabilitation, except in special cases, Posada said.

“In some situations, discharge orders will also be given to seriously-ill patients that cannot be given medical treatment by some TRCs due to lack of facilities for such purpose. The court will also allow it for some important situations for the patient, like to visit a wake of a family member’s death. But some took advantage and escaped,” he said.

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Data from DDB showed that only 112 patients out of 1,739 completed treatment and rehabilitation last year and only 565 were discharged to an aftercare program, while 197 patients escaped during a temporary discharge order.

According to Posada, the DDB is taking the initiative to solve the conflict with the courts.

“We are having seminars and are trying to communicate with courts. We are also telling them the procedures when it comes to treatment because some of them still don’t know how it works,” he said.

Section 54 of RA 9165 states that an 18-month aftercare procedure shall proceed after a one-year treatment. However, it can be extended if the TRC and DDB deem that the patient is not yet rehabilitated.

Data from DDB showed 668 patients were discharged before the primary program was completed.

Posada attributed this to “co-dependents.”

“Co-dependents are the family and relatives of the drug dependent. The rehabilitative program needs their participation because we cannot leave the child alone in the TRC,” he said.

The conference sponsored by the DDB, Department of Health, and the University’s Research Cluster on Cultural, Education, and Social Issues also tackled other dilemmas faced by TRCs.

Dr. Ernesto Palanca of Negros Occidental Drug Rehab Foundation said that one of the greatest problems that non-government organizations face is financial constraint.

“Growth can be achieved more through family engineering seminars, livelihood training courses, helping to inform the public, and having adequate fund,” he said.

James Santos of the Christian Missionary Community: Help Foundation said they survive through donations, mostly from Germany.

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He added that “drug addiction is not the root of the problem but the result of other problems.”

Springwells of Hope Rehabilitation Center director Gonzalo Jesus Garcia said his facility is having problems with non-accredited rehabilitation centers, which, he said, are destroying the reputation of the sector.

According to Martin Infante, founder of Self Enhancement for Life Foundation Philippines located in Batangas, problems also occur with the staff, some of whom have lack of training.

Some staff members also tend to abuse their authority, he said.

‘Five Pillars’

Posada said that DDB adheres to the ‘Accord Program,’ which is known as the five pillars of action to address drug problems.

“If you ask us what we are doing, we are almost doing everything. We also are following the pattern of the ASEAN and China Cooperative Operations in Response to Dangerous Drugs (Accord) program,” he said.

According to the DDB website, these five pillars of action from the Accord program are drug supply reduction, drug demand reduction, alternative development, civic awareness and response, and regional and international cooperation.

Posada said the drug problem is not only a concern of law enforcers and TRCs.

He also said there is a need for families to actively participate in the rehabilitation process.

“If the family falls, the community will also fall, and the country will follow suit. Until now, we must still strengthen the familial relationship,” Posada said.

Reniel Cristobal of Family Wellness Foundation echoed Posada, saying that addiction is not only a problem of the drug dependent.

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“Addiction is not just a medical and relapsing disease but it also becomes a family disease; over time, the loved one eventually becomes mentally, emotionally, and physically sick,” he said.

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