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VOLUNTEER TODAY - Growing cases of drug addiction
published: Saturday | November 19, 2005

Joseph Cunningham, Gleaner Writer


"A CLIENT once told me, that while he was on the job (he was a bus driver), he felt an uncontrolled urge to smoke some crack. He stopped the bus, told the passengers he was getting off for a few minutes, walked into a crack house and inhaled three balls of the drug. When he got back behind the steering wheel he was high as a kite."

Howard Gough, to whom this story was told, is the counselling psychologist at Patricia House, Kingston 10. "Patricia House is a household name, a 'home away from home' and a haven to drug addicts who are motivated to overcome," explained Mr.Gough, who is also the manager and co-founder.


In the late 1970s to early 1980s, cocaine hydrochloride, or simply 'crack' became easily available in Jamaica. By the mid to late 1980s it had become an epidemic. "This prompted the Government of Jamaica to shift drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation, upward on its list of priorities," said Mr. Gough, then Jamaica's only drug abuse specialist.

With funding from the European Union, a 24-bed residential rehabilitation centre catering to drug addicts, otherwise unable to afford treatment, was registered in March 1988. Under the supervision of Howard Gough and Barry Howe, clinical services began at Patricia House on April 17, 1991.

"Psychological and social conditions cause drug use ... We all need to observe that we need to be careful whom we associate with, and whom we allow to become close to us," said Mr. Gough.


Local companies have become more and more conscious of addiction amongst their employees. He cited one which has a strict drugs policy. It conducts random testing if an employee is found to be an alcoholic, he or she will be sent for treatment, but if found to be a crack user the employee will be fired.

Patricia House is a refuge for crack, ganja and alcohol addicts. Funded by the Ministry of Health, it provides a 10-week programme, with individual, group counselling and lifestyle skills training. "The public is very cold towards drug users," he said, "so as part of the therapy, we invite the families of the clients to participate just to create that feeling that someone cares."

Other methods include 'therapeutic relationship' or mentoring. But he insisted, the best way to rehabilitate is the 'behavioural system', focusing on a client's early childhood. "This way you deal with the root of the problem," he explained.

"The biggest challenge you will face as a counsellor, is dealing with a client with fixed beliefs. A client may feel that he or she does not have to stop smoking cigarettes in order to recover from cocaine addiction, but the habit of smoking is linked to the chain of various negative effects sometimes," he said.


Ministry of Health statistics show that 13 per cent of Jamaicans have substance abuse problems, with 12 per cent overall being male. And, why this high percentage of male addicts? Male bravado replied Mr. Gough.

"Instead of expressing themselves calmly or even crying about a matter, they prefer to express themselves by explosive means," he explained. For men, "Their high must not be ordinary, it must be very high, so they drink, and smoke and snort excessively," he said.

"At Patricia House, we do not write prescriptions," he took pains to stress. "We instead make ourselves the remedy, he asserted, we take them ... to the point when they should be equip to care themselves."

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