Friday, September 9, 2011

National Recovery Month

In 1989, the US government decided to observe September as Treatment Works Month in an effort to recognize and encourage the work being done in the field of addiction treatment. In 1998, this was officially changed to National Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. With the growing realization that substance abuse and mental disorders had much in common, September this year is being observed as Recovery Month, a month that promotes the societal benefits of treatment for substance use and mental disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible.

In India, however, both mental disorders and addiction continue to be largely seen in poor light, in spite of government initiatives and the growing community of able treatment professionals. The tragedy lies not only in the fact that society misunderstands the challenges faced by those afflicted by these conditions, but also that these poor understanding permits a large number of people and organizations to market treatment that is inhuman, unethical, and outright harmful. For a population already grappling a life-threatening and debilitating mental condition, this is a double whammy. In spite of governmental regulations specifying that only certified and qualified professionals will be allowed into this field, these organizations are often run by addicts themselves, with their own unresolved treatment issues that manifest themselves in ways that are damaging to the therapeutic communities that they set up.

Given the trauma that active addiction imposes on the addict and those in the addicts lives, these practices are often overlooked as they offer temporary respite from the pain of active addiction. The long term damage to the addict's psyche, the reduced probability of long term recovery, and the permanently destroyed fabric of trust and relationships are marketed by these organizations as reasonable price for this respite. Typically, these organizations take refuge behind religious beliefs, fearful superstition and the threat of things getting worse if the families do not comply to get away with this mode of functioning. A sad comment on our times, indeed.

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