Training course aims to boost drug counselling
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Author: Panyasith Thammavongsa
Newspaper section: International Cooperation
Photo: Vientiane Times
Drug abuse is a problem in many countries around the world and the Lao government is addressing the issue through cooperation with international organisations.
The Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LCDC), Ministry of Public Health, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the Singapore International Foundation are currently conducting a training course for more than 30 counsellors from seven drug treatment centres in six provinces and Vientiane. The course is being conducted in Vientiane from September 20 to 24.
Participants are also from hospitals in Vientiane, the ministry, and halfway houses in two provinces. The aim of the training is to build on the skills and knowledge of the drug counselling taskforce group so it can pass on skills to other therapists.
"Our government tries to assist drug addicts by providing them with the correct treatment, and while most return to become good citizens some do relapse. This means we need to increase our efforts in monitoring and counselling addicts," said Vice Chairman of the LCDC Mr Kou Chansina.
Mr Kou said the training course would help participants to improve the chances of their patients making a full recovery.
"We all know that illicit drugs can destroy lives and bring immeasurable misery and anguish to not only users but also family members,friends, the local community and eventually the nation," said UNODC Laos Representative Mr Leik Boonwaat.
He added the addictive nature of drugs makes it very difficult for many to cease their habit. For some drug users it becomes a lifetime of enslavement.
Drug addiction is a complex illness. While addiction might begin with the voluntary taking of drugs, over time that person's ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised, and seeking and consuming the drug becomes compulsive and can persist even when faced with devastating consequences, he said.
This behaviour results largely from the effects of prolonged drug exposure on brain function. Addiction affects multiple areas of the brain and its function and is difficult to address.
"Lao authorities seized a major shipment of more than 2.1 tonnes of methamphetamine tablets bound for Vientiane in February. Methamphetamines, heroin and injecting drug use have emerged as alarming developments in some border regions," he said.
Mr Leik added that Laos, because of its geographical location, has become a major transit route for the trafficking of illicit drugs from one country to another. Because of this, the country is very vulnerable and now, more than ever before, faces tremendous challenges from the threat of addictive drugs and related problems.
"This three-year longtraining project has provided ample opportunities for fruitful exchanges between personnel from Laos and Singapore who are involved in the important task of drug rehabilitation," said Singaporean Ambassador to Laos Mr Jeyaraj Benjamin William.
In Laos, where there were many competing demands for scarce resources, the task of drug rehabilitation becomes even more challenging. However, if addicts are successfully rehabilitated they are able to return to their families and society as useful citizens.
Otherwise they remain a burden on society and family, he said.