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Media Articles - 2000s

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16 December 2003
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New Avenue For SA Addicts To Come Clean

SAPA (South African Press Association)
July 7, 2003

As South Africa reels under an avalanche of drugs and the related increase in drug abuse, there is a new programme to get addicts off drugs using special nutrition and other "assists".

"The Narconon First Step programme is new to South Africa and was only launched here a few months ago, after extensive research and piloting in the United States," said Paul Kruger, director of Narconon New Life Centre in Cape Town. He said the programme had operated successfully for over 30 years and was used in several cities and countries, including Melbourne, Sydney, Los Angeles, New Mexico, Brazil, Jakarta, Buenos Aires, Mexican prisons and Pakistan.

"What we are doing has never been done before here," said Kruger. He said the programme was a cost-effective approach for handling large numbers of people needing to get off drugs, and involved voluntary, drug-free and pain-free drug withdrawal. "We can train a family member or concerned friend to administer the programme with a two-day intensive workshop."

He said there was a massive drug problem in South Africa, with numerous prevention campaigns such as the recently launched Ke Moja attempting to deal with the scourge. He said it was important to have the support of the United Nations as well as community-based organisations "who were dealing with the issue of substance abuse and crime everyday.

"But we must also... give someone options to get off the drugs through an effective voluntary withdrawal programme. This is what the First Step programme is all about. It is a practical solution that involves a step-by-step withdrawal from drugs by persons with drug problems with minimal physical, emotional or other personal difficulty," he said.

Expatiating on what he meant, Kruger said the withdrawal phase of addiction was what the programme essentially addressed, hence the term "first step".

"Withdrawal symptoms for addicts for a variety of drugs are hectic. For example withdrawal from opiates such as heroin includes extreme muscle and stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting and insomnia. For stimulants such as crack, cocaine, speed and ecstasy one sees extreme exhaustion and depression as well as psychosis. If these symptoms are not treated a person can start to use once again.

"From tranquillisers one can expect rapidly increasing anxiety and sleeplessness, with poly abusers suffering from it all. Factor in the toxins, the effects of starvation and malnutrition and you have virtually every unpleasant physical, mental and emotional feeling known."

Kruger said that the new programme helped with the withdrawal symptoms before real treatment could begin. Each individual was assessed to determine if the First Step Program was suitable to his/her personal drug history. This involved doses of CalMag -- a tonic of calcium gluconate, magnesium carbonate mixed with cider vinegar and water -- and something called a "drug bomb", a vitamin and mineral formulation.

"A third important component of the programme is the use of physical assists, that bring the person back into communication with his body and also helps with the associated physical symptoms of withdrawal. There are different types of physical assists, including nerve and touch assists," he said. Communications exercises are also used to get the recovering addict to look "outward" and to get back into communication with his/her environment.

Kruger said the key points of the programme were:

-- a residential seminar-style programme, the format making it possible to deal with addicts in large numbers without needing one-individual accommodation, or even any formal facility
-- the seminar was delivered in one or two days to still-using addicts, along with drug-free "buddies" and interested professionals
-- addicts came in voluntarily and were treated as "students" and not patients and were given exact techniques to use to wean themselves from drugs, day by day, gradually with no enforcement
-- after completing the seminar, the addicts call in daily to report on how they were progressing, and to get vitamins and minerals
-- withdrawal was normally completed within 30 days of the initial seminar or workshop.

Kruger said the detoxification method was powerful and had a 70 percent success rate elsewhere in the world. Discussions were currently underway with religious bodies, government, community-based organisations and other agencies to try to co-ordinate the programme.

Narconon is an international non-profit organisation started in 1966 by William Benitez based on the research of L. Ron Hubbard. There are over 100 drug education and prevention offices worldwide. Narconon has received support for its advanced technology from Scotland Yard, Britain's National Treatment Agency, the European Centre Against Drug Abuse, and the American Justice Department.