Release Organization, Hamburg
WORK PROGRAMME OF THE RELEASE CENTRE Information: Therapy = Co-operation Basic principles
Participants in the therapy
Conditions for acceptance by Release
I. THE ORGANIZING BODY
II. THE RELEASE CENTRE (Karolinenstrasse 7-9, Hamburg)
IV. RURAL COMMUNITIES
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FREE HANSA CITY OF HAMBURG DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Co-ordination and Information Centre for Drug Questions
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Author: Tillmann RÖMER
Pages: 29 to 40
Creation Date: 1974/01/01
"Help Yourselves" ("Helft Euch Selbst")Tillmann RÖMER
The idea of "Release" is associated in the Federal Republic of Germany with the Verein zur Bekämpfung der Rauschgiftgefahr e.V. (Association to Combat the Drug Menace), Hamburg, which, like the main office at 70 Princedale Road, London, is a kind of German headquarters for Release activities. The address of the centre is Karolinenstrasse 7-9, Hamburg.
Release was founded by former addicts in Hamburg in 1970. Its first premises were a four-room flat. In the first week 200 people telephoned for help with drug problems.
One month later, in October 1970, contact was made with the authorities. A qualified working team was formed in November, and a therapy group was set up in the Vierlande Youth Prison. Release started its first public relations activities with public discussion meetings and radio broadcasts. The growing number of applicants and public interest made space short.
Otterndorf Manor, near Cuxhaven, was rented in January 1971 and converted by employees and volunteers in the following months. The Hamburg authorities had so far refused any financial aid for the development of Release. The Association for the Promotion of Plans for Youth took over the lease for the Eppendorfer Landstrasse office.
The film "They call themselves mainliners" was made in co-operation with Release in April. A special committee of the Hamburg City Council met in the town hall. Dr. Heines, Director of the Bremen-Oberneuland clinic, sharply attacked Release, saying "These are not specialists; they are laymen". Dr. Ehebald, Director of the Psychoanalytical Institute of the Hamburg Health Authority, countered: "Science must learn from ex-users, not the other way round".
Release made contact with the Department of Advanced Social and Pedagogic Studies of Hamburg University and the sociologist Eddi Barow. This was the beginning of fruitful co-operation.
Rowolt-Verlag decided to publish "Help Yourselves", a collective work, as a paperback (ro ro ro 1543; 3.80 DM).
In May, rumours began to circulate that Release was a "drug group in disguise". Several officials from the public authorities came to inspect the premises. "Support" was promised in the near future.
Otterndorf was completed in June. The Syndicate for Promotion of Plans for Youth was founded: its members were the Department of Advanced Social and Pedagogic Studies, the Youth helps Youth Association and Release.
In July, a poster campaign with the slogan "Drugs in the Future?" was launched in Hamburg, and three Release workers were summoned to appear before the Drugs Department on charges of drug trafficking. The hearing was soon over.
A second action against Release, this time for "aiding and abetting", was started shortly afterwards. Detainees serving sentences for violations of the Opium Act had escaped from various youth prisons: they had sought refuge with Release which, because of its knowledge and experience that prison is the least suitable way of curing a person of the needle, is prepared as a matter of principle to help such young prisoners. Later this principle was recognized and acted on by the authorities.
In August, Release moved into the former premises of a drug factory in Karolinenstrasse. The Centre was born.
Drug abuse is a social problem. A change in the mechanisms operating in an individual can change his attitude to drugs. This is best achieved through a changed environment which will make new learning processes possible. The way to separate the individual from society seems to be to establish a community in which individuals can heal individuals and groups can heal groups.
The structure of a therapeutic community of this kind is provisional. It constitutes a first step. The project is intended to be both an experiment and a model, and therefore must be flexible. Experience will make changes and additions possible (see the interviews with Dr. Ehebald and Mr. Günther, below).
Working team (all with drug experience): five members for contact work and first therapy with addicts (consultants); one member for information and Press work; two members for domestic organization (office and cooking); two professionally and personally qualified members with medical and psychotherapeutic experience, not resident.
In addition several therapists are loosely associated with the team. This group works together according to a common therapy schedule, in such a way that addicts are constantly under supervision and treatment.
Men and women of any origin, aged between 16 and 25, exposed to drug and social dangers, take part in the therapy. They are:
Persons harmed by drugs such as the opiates, barbiturates or amphetamines, (after a withdrawal course, given in an emergency in the house);
Persons psychologically addicted to other drugs (e.g. hallucinogens);
Socially-harmed young persons (with family conflicts or educational difficulties) not exposed to drug dangers. A desirable ratio between these persons is 1 :1 :2 in each group.
Its aims are:
To trigger individual and social learning processes, new experiences and insights;
Their practical application in society;
(Connected with this) to mitigate individual problems and conflicts, dependence on drugs and compulsive drug-taking.
The practical therapy can only be outlined here:
Regular group-therapy sessions with an outside specialist (indirect conversation, behaviour, sensitivity training), participation in creative work, films, art, music, domestic work or repairs;
Group sessions with the therapeutic team;
Individual therapeutic sessions with associated therapists (to supplement group therapy and for more effective assistance in particular cases);
Support for individual and group plans and projects;
Assistance in finding work, vocational training, dealings with authorities and other practical difficulties.
Acute addiction/addiction determined by the social situation and drug abuse. Young people must decide freely for withdrawal, accept therapy, and be willing to work.
The therapy team decides whether or not to accept an applicant. There are no house rules. Problems of practical organization and daily routine are solved together by the members of the group and the therapy team. The use of drugs is incompatible with the basic approach of the therapeutic community, which works out an arrangement with the therapists. Guests may be brought to stay overnight on the responsibility of members.
A stay in a therapeutic community is intended to be temporary (about six months to a year). Its aim is that members of these original communities should take the lead in forming new ones, to be supported by Release and do similar work.
Here is a brief summary of the various groups living and working in Release. Because of its nature, its work, members and life situations are constantly changing.
This is composed of delegates of the various residential and working groups. At its weekly sessions they discuss administrative questions relating to the whole organization, exchange experience, solve general problems, tackle particular problems and settle the whole economic situation.
Office. The Office is the place where everyone in Release comes and meets everyone else. The telephone service gives people with drug problems information and sometimes help. Letters and documents for the authorities and answers to enquiries are also prepared and filed here. The office is manned in rotation by members of the Centre.
Hostel. The youth hostel is intended to be a reception centre for 20-25 persons. An overnight stay costs 7.50 DM. The three hostel managers encourage guests to take part in organizing the hostel and help with its cleaning, laundry, reception etc.
The "Ming" restaurant. Together with Cinemake, the macrobiotic restaurant "Ming" (Light) is planned as a contact point for young people seeking help, conversation or a "landing strip from bad trips". The food is entirely vegetarian and prepared according to the precepts of G. Oshawa. Some of the vegetables and fruit come from the gardens of Release hostels and are always produced by biologically-dynamic cultivation. Various foods are pre-cooked and cakes and bread are baked at the Velgen hostel.
Clothes and Release publications are sold in an adjoining kiosk. Prices are only slightly above production costs.
The Release publishing house. Release publications include posters, comics, leaflets, brochures, books and newspapers. Other youth organizations may also publish here. The organization of the editing and management is collective, and the composition of the team depends on the publication being prepared at the time. The printing itself is usually entrusted to another group, so as to distribute the financial means of production as widely as possible.
Cinemake. Video tapes, super-8 and 16 mm films are shown and partly also produced in the multi-media room adjoining the Ming restaurant. This room is also available to music and drama groups for rehearsals and recordings. From here, too, the neighbourhood TV operates in the "Caroline" working district and in youth hostels and prisons.
Another large room for team games or meetings is available on the first floor.
In the Release centre nothing is offered for consumption without obligation. Its object is to give people seeking help and hungry for information a reasonable chance to take a step themselves towards independence and creativity through active participation in its groundwork.
The "Mescal" boutique combines a book-shop (selling serious literature, social history and works on drug prophylaxis) and a clothing boutique. The articles on sale are chiefly made collectively by hand. The shop is situated next to the university and a youth information centre.
The "Odds and Ends" boutique. Release clothes and publications, among other things, are on sale in this shop, which is associated only with Release.
Rock-Lib. The object of the "Rock Liberation Front" or "Association for the Promotion of Modern Rock Music" is to organize welfare establishments, support new music groups and, at another level, to cream off the demand artificially created by the large profit-oriented pop-music manufacturers. The organization co-operates with Riebe's musical journal and the groups Guru Guru, Tomorrow's Gift, Clap Can, Störtebecker and Release-Music.
Tek. The "Technical-Electronic Collective" manufactures electronic therapy equipment. In 1973 an EEG Alpha feedback generator was developed in conjunction with the Institute for Experimental Peace Research, Berlin, and manufactured in a prototype series of about fifty. Tek has also produced inexpensive amplifying equipment for young music groups and services the NTV video equipment.
The Giesestrasse study group. Sociologists, psychologists and social educators work in this study group, some of whose members are registered at the University of Hamburg, on the theoretical and scientific development of practical Release experience. In 1973 the group prepared a comprehensive questionnaire and made a public opinion research tour in Germany round many Release groups in large and small towns and in the country. It co-operates permanently with the Release Study Community in the Dieckhardstrasse, Berlin.
There are now five rural communities: Otterndorf, Velgen, Streuberg, Ellenberg and Langwedel.
Their aim is to build up a new field of social application. Most people coming to a rural community have already been physically withdrawn from drugs. Their stay in the country can therefore be described as a "stabilization" or "mental withdrawal" phase. Out-patient withdrawals are carried out at the hostel only in exceptional cases. New residents are proposed by the worker with whom they first make contact. If no objections are raised by the rural collective, the newcomer can move in. Anyone can leave the hostel at any time.
The purpose of life in a rural community is "to shape the member's economic and social environment with him and according to his own ideas". Release works on the principle that the drug addict needs a genuine alternative to the needle. This cannot be found in ordinary city life, precisely against which the fixer has blindly and symptomatically taken up arms. Release prepares the way towards liberation from drug dependence and compulsive drug-taking through a return to healthy human relations. The aim is to achieve a "collective basis enabling the ex-user to develop for joint production and find an opportunity of achieving in himself what he had previously sought in drugs and found in illusory activity". (quoted from "Help Yourself").
The Otterndorf Youth Hostel has existed since 1971 and is the first centre to be operated on collective principles in a rural district. Its creative opportunities range from artistic activities such as theatrical productions ("Full Service", Hanover 1973; "Blackbirds", Street Theatre, Hamburg 1972) and radio programmes ("Brain Pollution", West German and North German radio networks, 1973) to gardening and the installation of an electronic recording studio in the hostel for the Clap Can, Tomorrow's Gift and Störtebecker groups. It has since become independent.
The Velgen Youth Hostel. Release children live with their parents and go to school here. Vegetables and fruit are grown and processed. It has a woodworking and sewing workshop.
NTV has a small studio here in which television programmes may be prepared and produced, (1972: The Cool User; 1973: UNESCO Programme, New Approaches to Education for International Understanding; 1974: HR-Frankfurt: Alternative Television).
The Streuberg Youth Hostel dates only from 1973. It is very isolated in the woods and is expected to start out-patient treatment in 1974. A co-operative of four people worked on its development in the summer of 1973. A small music studio has also been installed in it.
The Ellenberg Youth Hostel was built in 1973 as a model farm for animal husbandry and biologically-dynamic horticulture. Efforts are under way to procure independent energy services (water, gas, wood heating, own food production).
Langwedel study hostel. Members of the Giesestrasse study community live in this hostel. It is intended to provide a balance between university work in town and gardening and farming in the country. Students can also arrange and plan their studies here in peace.
Release therapy can therefore be summarized as withdrawal, stabilization, activation, and collective self-comprehension.
Release is financed by voluntary contributions, daily allowances from the authorities and its own "jobbing" and productions. In 1973 these sources constituted respectively about 1/6, 1/3 and 1/2 of the total. Of 80 - 100 members, 21 receive daily allowances from the authorities.
In 1972 a contract was concluded with the firm "Kinney Records" under which Release received 2.00 DM for each copy of the long-playing record "Let It Rock", and 1.00 DM for each one-sided Rolling Stones record. This partially financed the purchase of the Velgen hostel, and also enabled Release to obtain a large part of its electronic and mechanical means of production. In addition, each collective constantly repairs and re-cycles apparatus and transport of the industrialized welfare society.
A large part of the conversion of Otterndorf was financed through subsidies from Hamburg province and grants from the Federal Government. Nearly all the work is done by Release workers and "patients" themselves.
Dr. Ehebald is the director of the Psychoanalytical Institute of the Hamburg Health Authority. In an interview with NTV he said:
"Release can play in the future the role which it has played in the past and is now playing in drug control: as a point of departure for the drug scene and for the young people affected. The road travelled by Release should be travelled further. From my experience, I see it as a most effective one.
"A family group-structure is in theory a prerequisite for the stabilization of drug addicts. We know that addiction in these people is not the beginning but the end of a process which started in the parental home and has its roots in deficiency situations of early childhood. It might be thought that a person can only become healthy if he can make up the lost ground. What I have seen and learnt is that this group, by intuition and without having read learned books, has found a way of satisfying a definite need to make up lost ground.
"This makes Release very different from, for example, "Daytop" and "Synanon", because it gives something to its subjects: they can complete what was earlier lacking without being made infantile. When I think of my visits to Release, I remember drumming and music, and then some eating, and then more drumming. I had the impression that the group was relaxing wonderfully from its week's work in Hamburg and the Karolinenstrasse. We know that music-making and eating in a specific ritual are non-verbal, pre-verbal forms of communication, whose roots go deep into childhood. Thus exactly what was missing is being done: hence the importance of eating at Release.
"This is not obligatory, nor is it done by therapists who know that it is missing. There are moreover no compulsory activities as in Synanon, where people who fail to comply have their hair shaved off or placards hung around their necks.
"The people at Velgen said: 'We are on a production trip'. I think they are right. This production trip has to be found in terms of Release.
FREE HANSA CITY OF HAMBURG DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Co-ordination and Information Centre for Drug Questions
Mr. E. Günther, the director of this office, has known Release since its inception. The group largely has his efforts and understanding to thank for the State's ultimate financial help with its various establishments' development. He, too, gave his views in an NTV interview with Release:
"I believe that Release has created a very important model, which can be applied in other spheres as well. Our technical society is becoming visibly more nerve-racking, and an increasing number of young people are for one reason or another unable to cope with the situation. They cannot understand why everything here and abroad must be patterned on the eight or nine-hour working day - in other words on a professional life of today's dimensions. Why should not someone be an equally highly-esteemed member of modern society who says: '1 value free time more: the commodity "free time" is more important to me than a new car every two years or five suits in the cupboard'?
"In fact, what Release offers can be quite simply summarized by saying that Release helps each individual in the most direct way to achieve personal experience of success. This must be the alpha and omega of any kind of therapy for addicts. Drug addicts, after all, always try to substitute an experience which is brought about materially from outside for one which they cannot themselves produce.
"But only people with a purpose come to Release. This is the decisive prerequisite for working with drug addicts that they should themselves begin to want something. This has been found in all countries. The moment people attempt to treat addicts passively, success is definitely precluded: This can be seen throughout the world.
"Release therapy consists of giving the subject an opportunity to do something and see that he can achieve something. This observation applies to all so-called drug addicts. They despair of various things, and sometimes finally of themselves, because they cannot realize their aspirations, because their endurance is inadequate. The situation at Release offers a chance of doing little things successfully first and realizing 'I have done something. I am accepted!' "
Helft Euch Selbst (Help Yourselves), Rowolt 1971, rororo aktuell nr. 1543.
Rauschgiftgefahr - Was wir getan haben - Was Sie tun können (The Drug Menace: what we have done, what you can do), Release, Hamburg 1972.
Sucht ist Flucht (Addiction is flight), Drogen und Rauschmittelmissbrauch in der BRD (Narcotics and Drug Abuse in the Federal Republic of Germany), Analysen/Berichte/Forderungen (Analyses, Reports, Challenges), Konkret, Hamburg 1972.
Release Organization, Hamburg 37
Der Release-Trip 1970-1973 (The Release Trip, 1970-1973), Release, Hamburg 1973.
Der Coole User (The Cool User), Ein Aufklarungs- und Lehrprogramm des Vereins zur Bekämpfung der Rauschgiftgefahr e.V. - NTV-Release (An information and instruction Programme of the Association to Combat the Drug Menace: NTV Release), Release, 1972.
Arbeitspapiere zum Antidrogenkongress Hamburg 1972 (Working Papers for the Anti-Drug Congress, Hamburg 1972), Konkret, 1972.
More than 1,000 young people have contacted Release since its inception. Almost half of them have had severe problems and asked for help.
In 1971 the association had neither therapeutic possibilities (means of production, workshops, etc.) nor premises. In that first operational year nine young people were cared for directly. One died of an overdose, seven are again on the needle and one is off' drugs and living in a treatment home.
By the beginning of 1972 the plan had been partly fulfilled, so that of the many hundreds of applicants for help, Release has been able to accept more than fifty for at least three months:
Youth, 21, 11/2 years on opiates, came to Release from psychiatric treatment, three months in a rural community, then living-in with students, studying, off drugs.
Girl, 22, four years on opiates, came to Release from the clinic, four months in rural community.
Youth, 25, five years on opiates, came to Release from remand in custody for examination, four months in rural community.
Unmarried couple, one child, working, off drugs.
Young man, 18, slight LSD psychosis, came to Release from home, eight months in rural community, living in Hamburg, studying at the Hamburg College of Fine Arts, no drug problem.
Young man, 25, two years on opiates, came to Release from a home, seven months in a rural community, then another home, off drugs.
Girl, 17, abuse of opiates, came to Release from the drug scene, four months rural community, returned to parents, in school, off drugs.
Young man, 22, opiates and "Speed", two months in rural community, two months in urban community, apartment, working, off drugs.
Girl, 20, opiates, two months in urban community, two months in rural community, returned to parents, off drugs.
Young man, 17, thirteen years in a children's home, two years on opiates, incurably ill, came to Release from the home, four months in rural community, returned to parents, still addicted.
Girl, 19, children's home, l1/ 2 years on opiates, came to Release from the hospital (hepatitis), seven months in rural community, welfare home, still addicted.
Young man, 19, l1/ 2 years on opiates, prison, came to Release from a hospital (hepatitis), three months in rural community, living with a group of friends, still addicted.
Girl, 24, three years on opiates, came to Release from the drug scene, three months in rural community, living in town, photographic model, still addicted.
Girl, 24, on opiates, prison, earlier contacts with Release, six months between rural and urban communities, then broke off contact, still addicted.
Girl, 18, six months on opiates and other narcotics, came to Release from the "scene", urban community then three weeks in rural community, travel, arrested, prison, lived in various communities, still addicted.
Girl, 22, opiates, amphetamines etc., came to Release from psychiatric treatment, three months in various Release communities, various other homes, still addicted.
Young man, 17, opiates, prison, came to Release from prison, three months in urban community, returned to parents, still addicted.
Girl, 17, 1½ years on opiates, came to Release from parents, three months in urban community, returned to parents, sporadic relapses.
Young man, 22, two years on opiates,
Girl, 20, two years on opiates,
Girl, 22, three years on opiates,
Young man, 25, three years opiates,
All taken over by Release from another treatment home; seven months in urban community; relations previously formed in the group could not be dissolved without splitting it up, so the members were placed separately for treatment.
Young man, 25, five years on opiates, prison, came to Release from the "scene", four months in rural community prison.
Young man, 25, six years on opiates and amphetamines, prison, came to Release from the "scene", two months in rural community, remanded in custody for examination.
Young man, 23, four years on opiates and "speed", prison, came to Release from the "scene", two months in rural community, remanded in custody for examination.
Young man, 18, LSD psychosis, sporadic opiates in hospital, came from hospital to Release, five months in rural community, treatment home, hospital (hepatitis).
Young man, 20, five years on opiates and amphetamines, helped for thirteen months to build up Release, sporadic relapses, then remanded in custody for examination, suicide in prison, after refusal by prison administration to act despite urgent appeal by Release.
Young man, 19, five years on opiates, children's home, came thence to Release, four months in rural community, then travel;
Girl, 19, severe LSD psychosis, came to Release from psychiatric treatment, three months in rural community, travel;
Girl, 19, six months on amphetamines, three months in rural community, travel;
Young man, 25, five years on opiates, prison, came to Release from hospital (hepatitis), rural community, travel;
Girl, 15, on opiates, youth home, rural community, remanded in custody for examination, brought before court, bound over, forbidden to stay with Release, another treatment home; These patients have all broken off contact, therefore no information is available about their use of drugs.
Girl, 19, in severe danger from drugs, came to Release from the "scene", five months in rural community, apartment in Hamburg, no drug problem.
Girl, 18, children's home, in severe danger from drugs, came to Release from the home, five months in rural community, returned to parents, no drug problem.
Girl, 19, children's home, came to Release from a brothel, no drug problem, four months in rural community, a home, no longer a prostitute.
Young man, 22, three years on opiates, prison, came to Release from hospital on discharge, rural community, Release worker.
Young man, 26, eight years on opiates, incurably ill, prison, came to Release from psychiatric in-patient treatment, sporadic relapses, rural community, Release worker.
Young man, 24, five years on opiates, prison, came to Release from prison, urban community, Release worker.
Young man, 23, five years on opiates, prison, released early on motion by Release, rural community, urban community, Release worker.
Young man, 23, four years on opiates and amphetamines, prison, came to Release from remand for examination, three months in rural community, Release worker.
Girl, 20, two years on amphetamines, rural community, urban community, Release worker.
Girl, 21, two years on opiates, prison, unadaptable, came to Release from psychiatric treatment, rural community, Release worker.
Young man, 26, eight years on opiates and amphetamines, prison, founder member of Release, worker in the group.
Girl, 22, opiates, rural community, Release worker.
Boy, 26, two years on opiates, founder member of Release, worker.
Boy, 20, one year on opiates, prison, came to Release from home, rural community, Release worker.
Boy, 19, six months on opiates and amphetamines, prison, came to Release from an educational institute, rural community, Release worker.
Girl, 22, one year on opiates, came to Release from the "scene", urban co-operative, Release worker.
Young man, 19, two years on opiates, prison, came to Release from the "scene", Release worker.
Girl, 22, two years on opiates, prison, came to Release from the "scene", Release worker.
Girl, 16, children's home, in severe danger from drugs, came to Release from the home, rural community, Release worker.
Girl, 19 in severe danger from drugs, came to Release from the "scene", rural community, Release worker.
Young man, 19, six months on opiates, came to Release from the "scene", urban community, Release worker.
Young man, 20, eighteen months on opiates, came to Release from hospital, rural community, Release worker.