CubaHeal Research Department:
Professor Ricardo A. Gonzales MD Ph.D. DSc founded back in 1976 Cuba’s first health facility for substance abuse treatment at the Eduardo B. Ordaz Psychiatric Hospital in Havana. During his carrier of 40 years, he founded 17 similar facilities throughout Cuba making the hospital in Havana a national reference center for substance abuse treatment. The Cuban approach to drug abuse is open for international patients as well. The legendary soccer player, Diego Maradona is certainly, the most well-known patient of Cuban program.
What’s a Cuban approach?
The program lasts for 97 days (14 weeks) and during that time, the patient goes through the process of detoxification and rehabilitation. All the details are worked out- the therapy is carried out in a natural environment, overseen by a team of highly trained professionals (multidisciplinary approach to the treatment is must!). Upon the conclusion, the re-evaluation and follow up visit are scheduled.
The facilities that accommodate patients are secured and reserved only for patients on a drug abuse treatment. The treatment principle applied relies on “therapeutic communities” where patients get a chance to talk and encourage each other, share their hopes, dreams, and frustrations, which altogether contributes to the recovery.
During the first week, the team of specialists decides if the patient should stay in the program or not. In case of excessive aggression, if the patient changes his mind (patients are admitted under their own free will) or because of other medical or non-medical reasons, the team releases the patient with a recommendation about further treatment. The patients who get admitted (a vast majority of them), undergo a series of lab tests, X-ray, ECG, and other necessary medical examination procedures. After the initial assessment, a personalized therapeutic plan is made.
During the three months period, the patient is undergoing individualized physical and psychological rehabilitation program to achieve behavioral changes that will allow him a healthy (long-term sustainable) rehabilitation. Specifically, the patient learns about how to control withdrawal symptoms, how to cope with cravings, new healthy lifestyle, how to eliminate harmful behaviors and accept responsibilities and develop his or her intellectual and labor potential to its maximum.
The problem of drug abuse is complex and requires a team of many specialists- experienced internal medicine specialists, neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses- all to be trained specifically for the treatment of drug abuse.
Drug abuse in some cases leads to a vicious, never-ending cycle of psychiatric problems- the drug abuse damages the brain which leads to psychiatric conditions (paranoid psychosis or schizophrenia for example), which deepens the problem of drug abuse and makes it even harder to quit. The art of treatment is to recognize and put under control the “layers of the problem” that developed into autonomous psychiatric conditions over time and target the treatment specifically towards addiction (once the problem of addiction is solved, other aspects of patient’s psychological condition are resolved much easier).
A number of neurological conditions due to brain damage develops in abusers over time. Recognizing and putting those under control is also very important.
To put it in simple words- drug abuse treatment is like a walk through the minefield. To get on the other side of it you need a trained and experienced team behind, otherwise, it’s just a guessing game (with low chances for success).
What happens after the patient has been admitted to the program?
After admission, each patient gets introduced with the program (the first week, personalized treatment, methods, goals, and other relevant info). After introduction procedure, the patient signs a therapeutic contract. Also, the patient writes his or her personal history, with self-assessment- this document helps the team of specialists to design a treatment plan and later on, after the rehabilitation is over, will help the patient understand the extent of treatment intervention he went through.
Most often, on the day of admission, the patient is introduced to the community and attends all activities with others. In case of severe withdrawal symptoms, the patient may be under intense medical attention until his or her condition stabilizes. After stabilization, the patient is integrated into the community.
Long-term goals of rehabilitation
The goal is lifelong abstinence from drugs and rehabilitation of consciousness, personality, and behavior. The program helps the patient make lifestyle changes that will incur the risk of relapse- patients are encouraged to avoid places, activities, and people that are cues to drug use, to identify, understand and resolve inside conflicts that may be misinterpreted as cravings (or have lead to drug abuse earlier).
Drug addictiveness is a complex problem that affects not only one’s health, but his or her social relations, family, and all other aspects of everyday life. The Cuban program is optimized to cope with all of these aspects and prepare a patient for a new drug-free life.
Besides drugs, the Cuban program deals with other addictions as well
Drug abuse is just one of the problems when it comes to addictive behaviors and substance abuse. Alcohol, tobacco use, marijuana and opiates abuse are also problems the Cuban program successfully deals with. Of course, the approach is optimized for each of these programs.
Readers take away
The Cuban substance abuse treatment programs are developing since 1976. Professor Ricardo A. Gonzales, founding the father of substance abuse treatment on Cuba and internationally recognized expert is active even today as a consultant, but what’s even more important is his legacy to Cuba- a National Reference Center for Substance Abuse in Havana and 17 more facilities throughout Cuba that deal with the issue. Besides Cubans, these programs are available to international clients as well.
The rehabilitation process takes 3 months (sometimes more), and a rough price of the entire process with all expenses included is $26.000 (the price may differ at the point you read this article, for more info, contact the National Reference Center for Substance Abuse in Havana. During those three months, the patient is under constant attention of a team of experts.