Drug abuse: a challenge to Caritas
Involvement of Caritas Internationalis indrug abuse control
United States of America
Caritas International today and tomorrow
Author: D. CANGY , R. J. VITILLO
Pages: 41 to 50
Creation Date: 1991/01/01
R. J. VITILLO Director of Programmes, Caritas Internationalis, Rome, Italy
The present article contains a factual description of the main objectives of Caritas lntemationalis (CI), together with a brief summary of the activities of various national branches of the organization in the field of drug abuse prevention. The activities are mainly educational campaigns aimed especially at the young and various treatment programmes for persons already dependent on drugs. Cl has programmes in many different countries throughout the world. The conclusion provides an outline of the future priorities of CI and refers to the desire of the organization to cooperate more closely with other non-governmental organizations with similar objectives and approaches.
Caritas Internationalis (CI) is a confederation of 120 national and regional member organizations, operating in over 145 countries. Its General Secretariat provides its member organizations with assistance in the planning, implementation, evaluation and coordination of programmes, with due regard to their autonomy. CI is a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.
CI promotes human development and social justice among the most disadvantaged segments of society. Its work includes numerous aspects of social assistance and the search for a long-term solution to drug abuse. The motivation for its commitment in drug abuse control is based on the Christian concept of the individual's dignity as a human being and social solidarity among people and nations.
CI member organizations have developed important services in the areas of prevention, treatment, and the social reintegration of drug-dependent persons. CI member organizations cooperate with appropriate government sectors or departments; administer and coordinate services for drug-dependent persons; promote national and regional drug surveys; provide technical and financial assistance to relevant institutions; participate in national anti-drug campaigns; and collaborate with other organizations involved in similar anti- drug activities.
In recent years, Cl member organizations have become increasingly aware of the real extent of drug abuse and its devastating consequences, largely as a result of the valuable work carried out by local Caritas organizations, which are intensively involved in daily life; thus, Cl member organizations are among the first to alert public authorities to the presence of social problems such as drug abuse.
Cl recognizes the central role played by the United Nations system in efforts to combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking. United Nations activities in that field have greatly contributed to encouraging the involvement and intensification of Cl action in drug control.
The present article presents a cross-section of the activities related to drug abuse control that Cl member organizations initiated or in some way contributed to. Other Cl member organizations and their national networks are also involved in such activities but were unable to provide details on their activities in time to be included in the present article. The establishment of an efficient system for exchanging information is a goal that Cl is actively pursuing.
Caritas Austria, confronted with an increasing number of drug-dependent persons, attempts to meet the complex needs of individuals:
Through its own network of assistance centres, homes and other facilities throughout the country;
Through close collaboration with medical services and therapeutic communities;
Through joint efforts with drug-related services in the public and private sectors.
Caritas Bangladesh is mainly active in the field of rehabilitation. For example, it was instrumental in setting up the Baraca Assistance.Centre, which follows closely the rehabilitation programme of Narcotics Anonymous. Individuals being treated at the Centre are provided with shelter free from any access to drugs and are encouraged to develop a sense of discipline, responsibility, self-confidence and commitment, to improve their level of communication with others, to sort out emotional difficulties etc. Other activities of Caritas Bangladesh include the following:
A five-day training workshop, entitled "Anti-drug and national development", dealing with law, development and social justice, organized by the Institute of Rural Journalists under the auspices of Caritas Bangladesh;
The distribution of posters and the preparation of articles for various publications.
Caritas Bolivia collaborates in educational efforts to raise public awareness of the dangers of drug abuse, as well as in specific projects of the Government and other non-governmental organizations in such regions as Cochabamba (Chapare), Coroico and Trinidad, through its Diocesan Caritas network. It also collaborates with local church institutions dedicated to safeguarding and caring for children and youth in vulnerable situations, e.g. shelter for "street children". Its national promotion plan includes awareness campaigns to promote prevention, education and rehabilitation.
Caritas Bolivia prepared a special report on illicit drug trafficking for the Congress of Latin American Caritas Organizations, which was held in October 1990. Illicit drug trafficking was characterized by the Congress as a social problem of alarming proportions that was related to poverty and the desire by certain segments of society to become rich using illegal means. It was stated that illicit drug trafficking was an activity that involved one of the highest exchanges of capital on a transnational basis - in the range of $US 600 billion. It was maintained that the solution to illicit drug trafficking was not to be found in destroying coca leaves but rather in making structural improvements on the unjust social systems that had caused the problem.
Caritas Brasileira sponsors a residential community for drug-dependent males located on a farm in the state of Sao Paolo. As part of its efforts to inform the public and make it aware of drug dependence, two major meetings on the subject have been held and posters and brochures on the subject have been printed and distributed.
In order to help stem the rising rate of drug abuse, especially among youth, Caritas Chile collaborates with the Youth Pastoral Department of the Santiago Archdiocese, government-run rehabilitation centres in the country, and many non-governmental bodies dealing with special studies and programmes.
The main focus of the activities of Caritas Chile is on the following:
Education programmes of La Araucaria Center;
Community therapy action (i.e. focusing on a certain problem in a particular sector or barrio);
Preventive action (by raising the awareness of families or carrying out
Cooperation involving multidisciplinary health teams that provide treatment and assistance to both drug-dependent persons and their families;
Dissemination of scientific information, together with audiovisual material.
The Secretariado Nacional de Pastoral Social is involved in the field of preventive education, especially through its Youth Department, which cooperates with the national anti-drug campaign, the United Nations Children's Fund and other non-governmental organizations. The Secretariado has concentrated on awareness-building activities by publishing and disseminating two significant documents: "Colombia in its search for peace", and "Drug trafficking and addiction", a Pastoral letter of the bishops.
In addition, the Secretariado:
Collaborates with other Catholic churches and private and official institutions in order to unite forces and resources against illicit trafficking and drug abuse;
Seeks the consultation and help of experts and professionals;
Is a member of the national drug prevention programme;
Is preparing a pastoral manual on health to guide work in that field; (e) Participated in the planning of "Fiesta a la Vida", a national event to
Participated in the planning of "Fiesta a la Vida", a national event to heighten community awareness;
Carries out induction workshops for coordinators of the different ecclesial jurisdictions on programme planning and follow-up.
Caritas Denmark is supporting a vocational training project for drug- dependent persons in Thailand (as part of a joint venture with local Buddhist monks).
Caritas Egypt, at the request of the Egyptian Government, is drafting a scheme for preventing drug abuse and for providing assistance to drug abusers. A meeting on the subject, organized by Caritas Egypt, recently took place at Cairo. Representatives from several Caritas organizations in the Middle East and North Africa participated in the meeting.
The Secours Catholique Youth Department of France has submitted a list of its reflections on drug prevention to the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization, underlining its main concerns, which are as follows:
A plea for more balanced mass media campaigns on drugs;
That early prevention starts at home, during childhood and adolescence;
That recreation and social group activates are important and part of preventive education;
That the young need to be heard, to choose their own goals and to experience values of sharing, caring and group support;
That job training as organized by Caritas France is also a means of drug prevention.
Caritas Germany, founded in 1897, has confirmed a sharp increase in the national drug problem: in 1990 there were more than 1,100 deaths due to drug overdoses (a record number). In addition, from the mid-1980s to 1989 the number of drug users rose from 40,000-50,000 to 60,000-80,000, despite increased seizures of heroin (+64 per cent), cocaine (+66 per cent) and amphetamine (+42 per cent).
According to Caritas Germany, narcotic drugs currently account for 6 per cent of all medicines consumed in West Germany. Estimates of the number of drug-dependent persons range from 200,000 to 800,000.
Caritas Germany has a wide range of national services for drug-dependent persons comprising counselling, treatment and follow-up care. Since 1988, the organization has been running the following drug-related institutions: 212 out- patient counselling and treatment centres (helping approximately 80,000 persons annually); 30 specialized hospitals with approximately 1,500 beds (providing long-term therapy to drug-dependent persons); and 48 transition centres and therapy facilities specialized in prevention, treatment and reintegration.
In their pastoral letter of 31 May 1989, the bishops of Haiti noted the serious need to promote social services, especially services related to education and health maintenance, "because of the increasingly high numbers of illiterate youth and adults and because of the ravages caused by drugs and by AIDS". The bishops also stated in their letter that health education and prevention services were generally less costly and more effective forms of treatment.
In 1968, Caritas Hong Kong began the Lok Heep Club, a unique rehabilitation service that currently has a membership of 1,621 and is available to anyone in need of assistance. Its two centres and staff (nine social workers and three assistants) deal with such matters as personality and adjustment problems, dependency and health, family and finances, and job placement and employment. In addition to recreational and cultural activities, the Lok Heep Club provides individual counselling and therapeutic or developmental group counselling to former drug-dependent persons, inviting family members, volunteers and associate members to assist in fostering mutual cooperation and friendship and to help the former drug-dependent persons restore their self- confidence and develop a responsible outlook towards themselves and society. Medical counselling sessions are also held with the collaboration of the local university medical services. A rehabilitation service for former drug-dependent persons specializes in finding employment and offers other community-based programmes.
The actions of Caritas Hong Kong to combat drug abuse have four main objectives:
To keep the public aware of the fact that drug abuse is a real social problem, as well as a calamity that can strike anyone;
To prevent drug abuse among young people, who are most at risk of becoming drug-dependent persons;
To inform drug-dependent persons of existing treatment facilities, to motivate and prepare them to undergo treatment, and to provide moral and psychological support to individuals undergoing treatment and their families;
To provide rehabilitation and after-care facilities.
Caritas Italiana considers drug abuse control to be one of its priorities. Its action is threefold: involvement of adolescents and youth in the anti-drug campaign; training of young leaders to help encourage the involvement of adolescents and youth in the campaign; and liaison with various working groups and community links.
Caritas Italiana has mobilized 10 per cent of Italy's conscientious objectors, who have opted for civil rather than military service, to take training courses for community work in drug rehabilitation centres and to organize workshops.
Caritas Italiana has published, among other things, two major documents, entitled "Drugs and pastoral care" and "Youth marginalization and society".
The Catholic bishops of the Antilles and of Ecuador joined 122 delegates representing 16 different Christian denominations from 33 countries at the Second Encounter of Bishops and Pastors of Latin America and the Caribbean, held at Kingston in June 1990. They focused their attention on the theme "Foreign debt and drug traffic: a pastoral challenge to our churches 'to show hope after a decade of frustration".
In the Kingston Declaration, which emerged from the meeting, the religious leaders emphasized the destructive relationship between foreign debt and illicit drug trafficking. They stated that, in a context of economic crisis and recession and the transfer of resources from countries for debt servicing, illicit drug trafficking had had a negative effect on the countries involved and had created a host of far-reaching socioeconomic and political problems. They stressed, moreover, the futility of attempts to end illicit drug trafficking without devoting attention to "changing the unjust structures at the social, economic, and political levels from the point of view of the Christian commitment to the poor, the marginalised and down-trodden who are the real victims of the war against drugs".
The National Off-ice for Human Development (local Caritas) is a member of Pemadam, a national committee of the National Association for the Prevention of Drug Addiction, which receives strong government support for drug dependence and rehabilitation programmes.
Caritas Malta is extensively involved in drug prevention, (non-medical) treatment and rehabilitation through guidance, counselling and social reintegration. Its services are open to all, regardless of age, sex, creed or financial means. It is currently operating:
A non-residential day rehabilitation centre, conceived as a self-help programme, where drug-dependent per-sons are considered members and not merely patients, and guided by the basic concepts of honesty, constancy and responsibility;
A residential therapeutic centre (the first in Malta), an environment that assures meaningful guidance, work, reflection, dialogue and structured tensions for drug-dependent persons, in order to facilitate self-confrontation, a process in which family members are involved.
The Caritas Drug Prevention and Action Programme has the goal of reducing drug abuse among youth by preparing and disseminating informative material, by training parents, teachers, community workers and youth groups, and by creating so-called life-skill programmes for school curricula.
Caritas Malta has become a leading trainer in the field of adolescent drug- free lifestyles. Its drug prevention group has trained over 500 persons and has set up 24 parish groups. In 1987 and 1988 alone, the drug prevention group held hundreds of talks, discussions and seminars and participated in 46 radio broadcasts and 10 television shows. In addition to offering a library and audiovisual services to members of the Association for Drug Prevention and Action, Caritas Malta has also developed a youth-to-youth model, based on a comprehensive prevention programme.
In May 1988, the Catholic bishops of Mexico wrote a pastoral letter entitled "Drug trafficking: pastoral concern on the Church". They characterized illicit drug trafficking as a problem that was becoming more serious each day, one that was causing grave damage to individual persons and was blocking the progress and welfare of families and of society as a whole. They identified the following root causes of illicit drug trafficking, which had a strong hold on Mexican society:
Misery, hunger, illiteracy, ignorance, marginalization, unemployment, family disintegration, social injustice, corruption and the violation of human rights;
Blind ambition: subordinating all things to satisfy a desire for material goods and power;
Insufficient support for peasants, which led to migration from rural areas to the cities and even to places outside the country;
Programmes for providing information, stimulating concern and promoting prevention that were poor, not reaching people, especially youth, and did not sufficiently inform them about the dangers of drug use.
Centres of the Saint Xavier Social Services at Kathmandu and elsewhere in Nepal have been providing care and rehabilitation to young Nepalese users of hard drugs for more than ten years. The "freedom centres" of the Saint Xavier Social Services are, at present, the only centres that provide care to drug victims, guidance to family and community members on prevention and social reintegration, and training to staff members on the treatment of drug abuse.
In 1986, facing an increasing number of drug-dependent youth, the Saint Xavier Social Services, contacted the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association in New York, which sent a specialist to Kathmandu to teach and train several staff members in the use of acupuncture to treat alcoholism and drug abuse. The new treatment has enabled the freedom centres to help a greater number of persons. It has also resulted in increased willingness on the part of individuals to undergo rehabilitation and in increased collaboration on the part of family members, friends and other individuals in the community.
Caritas Pakistan, determined to raise the awareness of the Catholic population, especially youth, of the drug plague, has encouraged parishes to prepare drug prevention Programmes and the local pastors to preach to their congregations on the adverse effects of drug abuse and illicit trafficking. Caritas Pakistan sponsors a centre for heroin-dependent persons in one of the major drug-producing areas in the country.
According to the results of a seminar held at Karachi, between 3 million and 5 million persons aged 15-25 abuse heroin, a habit that absorbs most of the family income and results in increased poverty.
At Manila, the archdiocesan Caritas organization is finalizing plans to establish a drug rehabilitation centre that will have children and youth as its target group.
At Olongapo, the PREDA Foundation already employs, about 10 staff members in drug prevention and rehabilitation services. Some of the staff members are themselves former drug users.
Caritas Portuguesa has conducted a National Sociopastoral Care Week campaign, the theme of which was "A common commitment in the battle against drug abuse". The campaign involved 600 participants in discussions on drug prevention measures and treatment. An appeal was issued for collective efforts to be made at the national and local levels.
The archdiocesan Caritas organization in the city of Braga has established aprevention and rehabilitation project entitled "Projecto Homem". The project focuses on the values of love and solidarity, which are so necessary in the search for an individual's identity, especially in an age of social and cultural change. Activities include opening centres for young students who are separated from their families, establishing counselling centres for drug users, preparing drug prevention educators, and training volunteers to visit prisoners.
Caritas Espanola is a veteran in the field of drug rehabilitation. It has promoted the first national drug survey, "La poblaci6n espanola ante las drogas". It has also conducted a sociological survey on the effects of Church- related institutions to fight drug dependence and has identified 220 programmes at the local and diocesan levels, including 21 on-the-spot programmes, aimed at preventive measures for youth.
The following are among the main activities that Caritas Espanola is currently financing through its official national plan on drugs:
Programme coordination meetings with the diocesan Caritas (with particular emphasis on preventive education among adolescents and youth and work placement for urban squatters and rural outcasts);
Courses for youth social workers;
Publication of studies on the efforts of Catholic institutions to promote prevention
Follow-up and collaboration with therapeutic facilities in the public and private sectors;
Creation of new key services to respond to rehabilitation and reintegration needs (e.g. substitute families and half-way houses).
Caritas Espanola is advocating more global planning and a better pooling of resources.
Catholic Charities USA is highly aware of the effects of substance abuse in the United States. At the diocesan level, Catholic Charities (local Caritas) agencies sponsor preventive education programmes in schools, social centres, the workplace and other important social institutions. Many such institutions are actively involved in sponsoring treatment and rehabilitation services, such as in-patient detoxification units, residential treatment centres, out-patient counselling and family therapy, and methadone maintenance programmes.
There is strong programme emphasis on providing former drug-dependent persons with appropriate job skills in order to break the cycle of poverty and unemployment, which are often precipitating factors of drug dependence. At both the state and national levels, Catholic Charities promote legislation to prohibit easy access to drugs and to help persons who are already drug- dependent to receive the necessary services. The bishops of the country have expressed their concern over substance abuse. For example, the bishops of New Jersey have issued an appeal entitled "Pastoral statement on substance abuse". Cardinal Hickey of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. has issued a publication entitled "Pastoral reflections on Washington's substance-abuse crisis".
Conscious of the magnitude of the problem, CI feels that its contribution is but a drop in the ocean and that more resources will have to be committed to take all the measures necessary to confront what may be called the challenge of the century. Undoubtedly CI member organizations that do not have a national programme, such as Caritas Bangladesh, may nevertheless play an innovative and demonstrative role. CI can promote the exchange of information, coordinate initiatives and support the activities of professionals, members of the community and organizations involved in drug abuse control.
In assuming their new challenge, Caritas member organizations are attempting to gain insight into the multiple aspects of drug abuse that will enable them to evaluate practical approaches to dealing with the problem and the individuals and institutions affected by it.
CI is seeking closer cooperation with other non-governmental organizations that have similar objectives and approaches and have been involved at the grass-roots level. Further study and research methods will have to be devised with a view to designing a development programme to prevent drug abuse, to treat drug-dependent persons and to help in their social rehabilitation.
Through its contacts, CI is in a good position to make a valuable contribution to the world community.