Is Uber legal in Prague

Drug addicts suffer from closed borders

Heroin and crystal meth are currently in short supply in the Czech Republic. Because of the closed borders in the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the substance no longer comes into the country. At the same time, the number of addicts in this country remains consistently high. And they are now in a quandary that can be life-threatening. Martina Richterová Těmínová heads the Prague NGO Sananim, which takes care of addicts in the capital:

“At the moment, there are too few drugs for too many users. This is very disadvantageous for our clients. Because now they take everything they can get - from stimulants to narcotics to amphetamines. So they swallow everything, regardless of their actual addiction. "

The lack of crystal meth should come as a surprise, as the Czech Republic is a European stronghold for the production of this drug. Richterová Těmínová draws attention to the fact that many raw materials for the intoxicant are also only available abroad. Therefore, the production would stop or continue with inferior substitutes, so the social worker and therapist. Meanwhile, the addiction often shifts elsewhere:

“The addicts use all possible sources. For example, they consume a lot more medication or phentanyl patches when they can get them. In any case, they drink more alcohol. "

Opportunity for alternative therapy methods

According to current estimates, there are almost 48,000 users of so-called hard drugs in the Czech Republic. One might think that many addicts find a way out of their addiction through the current situation. For some, this may actually be the case, says Richterová Těmínová, especially since those affected could escape other acute problems through withdrawal:

“Of course, the current situation is a motivation for some of our clients to undergo treatment. Not only is there a lack of drugs, but also of food, so that most of them are hungry. In addition, there are no many ways to wash yourself. Life has become more complicated for the addict. Therefore, they ultimately consider withdrawal. The epidemic is a kind of 'kicking the ass' that forces people to act. "

But often you can't get out of addiction on your own. But this is precisely where there is a massive problem at the time of the coronavirus pandemic. Because withdrawal clinics are partially closed and necessary therapies are hardly possible:

“Indeed, getting adequate treatment is much more difficult. Because in all contingency plans in the event of a pandemic, psychiatric clinics are a kind of 'spare parts warehouse'. From there, in the event of a crisis, medical staff is sent to the intensive care units of other hospitals. As a result of this measure, many other departments had to be closed and treatment there discontinued. As far as I know, only two rehab wards are currently open in this country, which makes admitting new patients incredibly difficult. Of course, the outpatient advice centers will continue to work. But group therapies are not possible, which is often not acceptable for new patients. "

Martina Richterova Těmínová therefore suggests approaching drug addicts differently. So enough substitution drugs would have to be provided in order to "keep those affected alive" as much as possible. At the same time, there is now a good opportunity to dare alternative therapeutic approaches, says the head of Sananim:

“We haven't had these new methods so far. We are now about to introduce them. The current situation would also be a catalyst for the ongoing reform of the psychiatry, whereby the patients should be treated in their own environment as far as possible. But that requires a few more steps. The cost of substitution drugs should be borne by the health insurances, as those affected often no longer have their own income due to the crisis. The psychiatrists would also have to find the courage to actually go into the field - i.e. to the patients' homes, to emergency shelters or to occupied houses. Actually this is still a long way off, but now the right time has come to try all of this. "

According to Martina Richterová Těmínová, Sananim has no problem starting appropriate measures immediately:

“First of all, we could go to the crisis shelters for the homeless. Because of the pandemic, many of these people were housed in tent cities or empty hostels. So from our side there is the offer that we go in there and carry out our normal addiction counseling. "

Skype and Education

Sananim currently looks after around 10,000 drug addicts, almost 7,000 of whom live on the streets. According to Martina Richterová Těmínová, the corona crisis is a very special challenge for her, especially since the "client base" of social workers has changed significantly in recent years:

“At the moment it is particularly noticeable how much the drug scene has changed. Because the addicts are getting older, and they also carry around age-specific complaints. So our work today looks different than it did a few years ago, when the users were still young hops and drug use was associated with more joy for them. Our clients suffer greatly from their loneliness. So the most important thing for us is not to let them down right now. "

To make matters worse, the Sananim contact centers are currently only running on the back burner. So only food, hygiene articles and face masks are handed out and syringes are exchanged. There is no capacity for warm words or in-depth support. Mainly because of a lack of protective equipment, the helpers had to reduce their services to a minimum:

“It's now working again, because we were able to buy some material. The magistrate has also given us certain resources. The first two weeks were very exhausting because we had nothing. After all, our employees sewed face masks, and we got some from dear fellow citizens. We were able to pass this on to our clients. "

But contact with other people would mean a lot to addicts, says Richterová Těmínová. And most of them are now missing that. The Internet offers a certain substitute, however. Because some consultations and group therapies now run via Skype or something similar. The therapist Richterová Těmínová believes that it takes getting used to for both sides, but it is also enlightening:

“It's very interesting because it's a whole new experience for everyone. This makes a lot visible that we have not seen before. In normal group sessions, we therapists can read a lot from the sitting posture or gestures of the client, for example. That is no longer applicable. For this we see our clients in bathrobes or their pets and bookshelves. That is a strange glimpse into their life for us. "

Risk group homeless

Yet the loneliness and lack of therapy are not the worst for the addicts, and especially for those who live on the streets.

“Of course, our clients are at risk, especially because of their lifestyle. We try to educate them a bit, like how to wear a face mask or how to follow certain hygienic rules. But when someone sleeps on the street, hygiene is simply difficult. In addition, the addicts are getting older and have numerous previous illnesses, which is why they clearly belong to the particularly endangered people. "

But maybe it is completely different, and the people on the street are more resistant to the coronavirus because of their lifestyle, hopes Richterová Těmínová. But that could only be shown by large-scale tests, according to the social worker.