“Triple R” a European project targeting best practices in the field of drug abuse treatment, recovery and social reintegration

Individuals should be at the center of the therapeutic program. Medicalization must not be an end but a way leading to recovery. Education has a pivotal role in both recovery and social reintegration. Alternative sentencing to incarceration should be further promoted and implemented. These are some highlights of the guidelines presented yesterday in Brussels.

The Triple R project (rehabilitation for recovery and reinsertion), is a two year long European project (2016-2017) financed by the European Commission and based on the exchange of best practices in the field of drug recovery. Triple R had just launched new guidelines to improve interventions in the field of drug rehabilitation, justice interventions for drug addict offenders and social reintegration of recovering addicts. San Patrignano is the coordinator of the project and has been working with several the European partners: the Italian CeIS Rome, the Belgian Drug Court Popov GGZ, Dianova Spain, the Swedish user run social enterprise Basta, and the Croatian NGOs Stijena, Institute Pula and San Patrignano Association Split.

The Triple R thematic publications have been officially launched yesterday in Brussels, but some highlights had also been presented to member states and international experts at the 60th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at the United Nation in Vienna. The guidelines aim to be inspirational for professionals, experts, and relevant stakeholders at the policy level, who are interested in the field of drug recovery.

The Triple R manual and handbooks have been elaborated building on decades of expertise gathered by the project partners. Appreciating the differences in terms of national cultures, legal frameworks and approaches to treatment, many similarities and key aspects had been identified, and a common position had been reached in the suggestions to move forward.

The entire Triple R experience had been based on the shared vision that drug policy should be human center, addressing people needs and not the substance consumed. Recovery should be the leading paradigm in drug policy. Medicalization and harm reduction should be instrumental to recovery and not a goal in themself. They might be useful tools in the short run, but are not the answer that drug addiction requires.

According to the guidelines, another essential aspect the governments should look into is social reintegration. Social reintegration should not be considered as a separate process from recovery, but on the contrary the two are very much complementary. Autonomy is the final aim of social reintegration and should be achieved thanks to a personalized intervention. Long -term programs are needed, and whenever possible families of recovered users should be included in the program since they could play a crucial role in supporting social reintegration of the beloved one. The chances of successful social reintegration are greatly enhanced if during the rehabilitation program the recovering addicts had access to educational opportunities and professional trainings. In this way the residents are empowered and supported in finding a job placement upon completion of the program and are not dependent on social welfare.

Furthermore, the suggestions on justice interventions and alternatives to incarceration have been particularly interesting. The Triple R partners agreed on the fact that drug addict inmates should not be considered as just criminals, but people in need of treatment and that prison is not the ideal place for recovery. Governments should create alternative measure programs or further implement the existing ones, offering opportunities for treatment, education and professional training with the aim of supporting a successful social reintegration and reducing recidivism in both drug abuse and criminal behavior. Considering national legislation, governments could also consider implementing a drug treatment court model. Created in the United States, and successfully replicated in Belgium by Popov GGZ, the Belgian experience could be inspirational for other EU countries. The drug abuse offender is not immediately sentenced but supported by the drug court in his/her rehabilitation path that could take from 6 to 12 month. In this way the drug abuse offender has the time to recover and plan social reintegration.

The second phase of the Triple R program is focused on Croatia. A feasibility study based on the guidelines of the project will be undertaken to assess the national situation and provide suggestions for pilot projects implementing new initiatives or ameliorating the existing interventions. The final Triple R conference featuring the ultimate project results will be held in Zagreb in Autumn 2017.