Open Forum

Abstinence and helping people rebuild lives are proven ways to help people off drugs, writes Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin

After many failed years, Darren, a heroin addict, was finally able to go into rehab after sticking to a programme of abstinence. He had tried several other methods in the past, including methadone and valium, but Darren believes it was only through finally opening up to others about his insecurities, and because of the faith his friends had in him, that he could begin to overcome his problems.

Over the past 15 years, I have witnessed many others follow a similar path to Darren, which has led me to believe in a method of recovery based on abstinence and counselling. In my experience, this is far more effective than the reduction or substitution-based approaches, such as the prescription of methadone.

Many people affected by addiction believe that if they can eliminate their drug of choice, they will be ok – but frequently end up substituting one substance with another. There are some situations in which withdrawal is the only choice, but through arming people with sufficient self-esteem and a strong support network, I believe that a person has the best chance possible to stay in recovery.

A full recovery needs to be physical, spiritual and psychological – changing a person’s entire way of life. Anonymous fellowship-type organisations are proven to be more successful, because they aim to do just that. And they are run by inspirational people who have experienced similar challenges themselves and have succeeded in maintaining a clean lifestyle free of any substances.

Our role involves raising awareness and to offer people with substance addiction a reason to get out. As the case of Darren demonstrates, people can be helped to stop using drugs and to rebuild their lives.

But even more important in the long term is to provide young people with the tools by which they can choose to remain abstinent in the first place, while still reaching the highs in life that we all crave for. In my view education is the key.

Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin is director of Drugsline, an independent drugs charity based in London

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