Characteristics of a population undergoing treatment for drug addiction in a therapeutic community setting in Spain




Pages: 67 to 69
Creation Date: 1988/01/01

Characteristics of a population undergoing treatment for drug addiction in a therapeutic community setting in Spain

Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oviedo, Spain


The authors discuss the findings of a study of the personal history characteristics of a population of 223 individuals who underwent treatment for drug addiction at the Masma Therapeutic Community, Lugo, Spain, during the period September 1984 to March 1986. The population consisted of 58 females and 165 males, predominantly from middle-class backgrounds. Nearly all were multiple drug abusers, cannabis and heroin being the most widely abused drugs. Over half the population received treatment prior to admission to the Masma Community for the abuse of either barbiturates or opiates.

The research instrument used was a self-report questionnaire, completed by participants anonymously and on a voluntary basis. It included items relating to personal and family background, aspects of drug abuse and type of prior treatment.


Numerous authors have reported findings of studies on treatment progress in respect of drug-addicted persons in a therapeutic community setting. [ 1-7] The authors attempted a similar study in Spain of a population of 223 drug-dependent persons who underwent treatment at the Masma Therapeutic Community at Lugo, Spain, during the period September 1984 to March 1986.


For purposes of the study, a clinical history scheme, in the form of a selfreport questionnaire, was devised by the study team. It was used as a basis for conducting personal, voluntary and anonymous interviews with those who underwent treatment at the Therapeutic Community.

By using the clinical history scheme, personal data about the population was ascertained by the team. This information included age, marital status, occupation, family background, social class, type of addiction and treatment received.


An analysis of the survey results revealed the personal history characteristics of the population, Of the total number of individuals studied, 26 per cent were female, with an average age of 20, and 74.0 per cent were male, with an average age of 21. They were predominantly unmarried (85.0 per cent), the figure being similar for females (89.0 per cent) and for males (86.0 per cent).

The educational background of both females and males was generally low and limited to the primary or secondary level. With respect to employment, 46.0 per cent of the study group was employed and 54.0 per cent was unemployed. Of those employed, more than half were male.

The family background of 74.43 per cent of the population was middle class; 12.55 per cent were from a lower-class and 14.0 per cent from an upper-class background, For females, the percentage figure for a lower-class family background (24.13 per cent) was nearly twice that for the total sample (12.55 per cent). In the majority of cases, the parents had either no education or primary education.

Most individuals in the study group were found to have maintained good relations with both parents (84.30 per cent) and with siblings (82.51 per cent). In 78.47 per cent of the cases, the parents were married. In 14.34 per cent of the cases, one of the parents was deceased.

In 17.0 per cent of the cases, alcohol was used by the parents and, in 22.0 per cent of the cases by siblings. Drug abuse by the parents was reported in 10.3 per cent of the cases and by the siblings in 44.0 per cent of the cases.

Nearly all of the individuals studied were habitual tobacco smokers (99.53 per cent), and slightly over one half used alcohol habitually (52.11 percent).

Particularly worthy of note is the fact that 39.46 per cent of the population had a record of prior incarcerations, the figure being higher for females than for males.

There was a significant incidence of prior psychiatric treatment (46.0 per cent), the figure being slightly higher for females. In addition, suicide was attempted by 28.25 per cent of respondents, again slightly higher for females.

The investigation into past illnesses often revealed venereal diseases and hepatitis, the latter being more common (56.33 per cent).

Most of the subjects were multiple-drug abusers (95.0 per cent). Cannabis and heroin, followed by cocaine, amphetamines and LSD, in ranking order, were the most frequently consumed drugs. This applied to the overall results and to those for males. In the case of the females, however, the order differed, with heroin leading, followed by cocaine and then by cannabis derivatives.

Among the males, the drug first used was cannabis. Many of the females reported having begun addiction with heroin, In 82.0 per cent of the cases, individuals found their way to the Therapeutic Community on their own initiative. Prior treatment was reported by 65.47 per cent of the population. The treatment received was related to the abuse of barbiturates (34.0 per cent) and opiates (28.25 per cent).

The primary means of acquiring the funds with which to purchase drugs was criminal activity, especially drug trafficking. In that respect, prostitution was engaged in by 22.41 per cent of the females.

Reasons for having begun abusing drugs varied. The findings indicated, however, that curiosity was the dominant motivating factor (83.0 per cent). Approximately 45 per cent of the study group appeared to have relatively little understanding of the harmful effects of drug abuse.



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