The DLSU Psychology Department, in collaboration with the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) Task Force on Drug Recovery, Diocese of Caloocan, and Our Lady of Assumption Parish, organized a community-based relapse prevention program entitled Akap at Katatagan sa Salubong, which will take place from February 28 to March 4, 2017.
The initiative consists of a series of workshops with a variety of speakers, with the goal of ‘trainers training’. It is under PAP’s program entitled Katatagan Kontra Droga (KKD), which comprises of 12 individual modules and three family modules, and is designed to provide relapse prevention skills for low to mild-risk drug users.
Akap at Katatagan sa Salubong
Program Head and DLSU Psychology Professor Homer Yabut shares that Akap at Katatagan sa Salubong has been planned since October or November of last year. He explains how in the past, initiatives provided by the department were more focused on mental health and psychosocial support programs during natural disasters, such as typhoons. It was only this year that interventions on drug abuse were organized due to the increased attention on the issue.
“Yung drugs kasi naman na–highlight recently lang, hindi siya talaga given concern dati. Ngayon lang talaga dumami ang [attention]. (The issue on drugs was highlighted recently only; it was not a given concern before. The attention on it increased just today),” Yabut adds.
He goes on to clarify the purpose of the workshops. “We will not give the intervention [to substance users]. We will just train volunteers. So trainers training, and also supervision of these volunteers,” Yabut explains.
The speakers of the workshops themselves vary, with Lasallian faculty delivering some of the modules, while external speakers are in charge of others. Dr. Regina Hechanova, the president of PAP, will be one of the highlighted facilitators.
As volunteers, the program sought the participation of church workers from the Archdiocesan of Caloocan and Our Lady of Assumption Parish. According to Yabut, the church workers will be the ones directly interacting with and rehabilitating drug users.
Meanwhile, DLSU faculty members, doctoral students, and masteral students were contacted to assist in the training and coaching of the church workers. These coaches had graduate training in psychology, guidance counseling, or clinical social work, and had basic skills in cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and family therapy. Undergraduate student volunteers assisted with minor tasks, such as the logistics of the program.
Yabut explains that the initiative has a threefold purpose. “Trainers training [and supervision] sa intervention, community education sa psychology [department], and research about the users in the community,” he enumerates.
Katatagan Kontra sa Droga
The PAP program that the initiative was under was organized mainly as a proactive response to the current administration’s campaign against drugs. According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), one out of five barangays in the country are struggling with the problem of drugs, and there are now over 746,066 surrenderers who are expected to be treated at the community level.
The PAP, however, believes that there is a lack of evidence-based intervention being used for rehabilitation at the community level. Hence, the program was established based on this gap as well as a psychological needs analysis conducted among drug users and their families.
Among some modules included in the KKD are understanding drug addiction, motivation to change, coping with cravings, coping with external triggers, and adopting a healthy lifestyle, among several others.
On the psych needs analysis
The KKD program was developed after a series of surveys and focus group discussions found that some family members were not aware of drug use nor its harmful effects. The family members further revealed that they were uncertain on how to help their kin.
The report also showed that there were mixed reactions on the government’s current efforts to curb drug abuse. On one end, the families are thankful for the government’s attention on their plight, while at the same time, there is a prevalent fear of being killed due to the extrajudicial killings.
Other results of the analysis showed that 55 percent of respondents did not seek for help because they believe they can control themselves, and 77 percent claimed peer influence as the main reason for drug use and relapse, among several others. The analysis was based on a comprehensive survey tackling various psychological issues in drug abuse.
With the current government’s relentless war on drugs, there has been a heightened focus on the abuse, trade, and manufacturing of illegal drugs. A report by the Dangerous Drugs Board in 2016 claims that there are over 1.76 million drug users in the country. As of this month alone, the PDEA has over 3,518 operations conducted, 3,087 people arrested, and 1,898 cases filed.