It’s not easy finding treatment for alcoholism or drug addiction in Romania. I know this because I have been looking for addiction treatment services in this country over the last year. You may be wondering why I’m looking for treatment (are you wondering if I’m addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex?).
Although I did once observe a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in Bucharest, I can confess that I’m not addicted to anything (except perhaps work). But I do work for a leading British rehab clinic (you can see our Romanian language site here) and we are looking for Romanians who want to go to Scotland for treatment. (We also know that Romanians who need treatment generally can’t afford it and that’s why we realize we must start by sharing information and raising awareness.)
What is immediately obvious to anyone who cares to investigate is that there is a tremendous shortage of treatment services for addicts in Romania. There are plenty of psychologists and psychiatrists working in Romania but very few of them specialize in treating addiction. It’s tempting to blame this on the Communism and the Soviet model but Ukraine and Russia seem to have inherited better resources in this regard than Romania has. If you click here you can see a well equipped Ukrainian treatment centre.
But I have come across some good people in Romania who do know about addiction and do offer various treatment services. I would like to share this information with you. The first part of this article addresses some of the key issues of addiction and the second part consists of a list of service providers. I finish off with a short presentation about the clinic I represent.
Denial is the main blockage to treatment
I recently came across an American missionary in Cluj called Floyd Frantz. He is an expert in treating alcoholism, using the 12-steps model, which was made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous, a movement that has been going since the 1930s and is credited with helping millions of people recover. He runs a Christian centre for the treatment of addiction and you can see his website here. Floyd described the situation as follows: “for the most, part treatment in Romania consists of going to visit the doctor, or to the hospital for a detox, then post discharge medication, and maybe some individual counseling. There are very few addiction specialists in Romania.”
When it comes to treatment a holistic approach should be taken. In other words, the detoxification of the body is not enough. If you don’t address the roots of the problem and help the addict face up to his/her psychological problems there can be no lasting cure. There are endless tales of people getting hospital treatment for alcoholism – involving a few days of abstinence – and then hitting the bottle again as soon as they get out. There is an Israeli treatment available in Romania (http://forad.ro/tratament) which involves “cleaning” addicts by giving them a blood transfusion, but it doesn’t address the psychological problems and therefore I would not recommend it.
But treating addiction in a holistic way is easier said than done. As Floyd says the typical “state” treatment of alcoholics (in UK as well as Romania) is to “de-tox” them in hospital for a couple of weeks and then tell them to get counseling (an individual psychologist). The problem is that a typical addict lacks the self discipline needed to follow a programme like that; if you’re feeling bad about yourself you take drugs or alcohol to escape, you don’t go to a therapist.
The best form of treatment is at a residential centre like Castle Craig, as you have all the treatment in one place, the addict stays there for at least 6 weeks and there is a good chance of recovery (Castle Craig’s statistics show that over 50% of their patients have remained abstinent). And a residential centre imposes a discipline on its patients. But I realize that most people – in Britain, not to mention Romania – cannot afford this type of treatment without the support of the state or private insurance companies. (And private health insurance policies don’t function normally in Romania).
Treatment – the essentials
If treatment is to succeed two things are essential – the addict must really want it and a holistic programme should be available. The main barrier to treatment is denial, in other words the addict spends years thinking that he/she has the situation under control, that he/she controls the drug and not the other way round. They may be able to stop for short periods of time and hang onto their job and family, but the drug will always pull them back into its vortex. The first step is to recognize that you have no control over your addiction – and it can take addicts many years to reach this point.
Holistic treatment involves a mixture of physical detoxification – the quickest part of treatment – and various types of psychological treatment that address the root causes of the issue (how did you get addicted in the first place?). Issues like childhood abuse, depression and a crushing sense of shyness are often at the bottom of it but genetics are also important (children of alcoholics are particularly vulnerable). A big part of treatment is to look at support networks: do your current friends encourage the addiction? Do you have any local groups that can keep you on the long and lonely path to recovery? This usually involves getting the addict signed up to his/her local AA group (in most western countries there are AA and NA groups in every community; in Romania there only seem to be a handful in the whole country). Family is an important part of treatment; the addict’s family has often been driven mad by the antics of their offspring, and they need counseling in what is addiction and how important their help is. There is some very interesting material (in English) about addicts and family that you can see here.
A note about me
I should point out that I am not a medic, a psychologist, a therapist or someone who can offer treatment. I am a communication professional, a writer and editor, and I am keen to share the information I have found as part of my research into addiction in general and treatment in Romania. On this basis, I hope you find the following information useful and if you would like to contact me about any of these issues I can always be found via my company website which is www.productive.ro
List of treatment providers in Romania
I was told about these services providers by people I trust. I hope it will be useful for you.
When Romanian addicts call me up to get advice about treatment (usually it is the parents) I usually refer them to Dr Eugen Hriscu of the psychotherapy clinic Psymotion, which is in Bucharest. Dr Hriscu and his colleagues are rare in Romania in that they are fully qualified to treat addiction and they have a private clinic that is dedicated to just that. He also runs the leading NGO for addicts — ALIAT – which has signed up over 2000 drug users. ALIAT recently set up a new online counseling service for alcoholics called ALCOHELP
I was referred to this site by Brian Douglas who has a small NGO in Iasi and offers some great addiction programmes in various communities in the NE (he recommends you look at this site about addiction in the UK). I don’t know much about the people behind this site – The Blue Cross – but they describe themselves as a “humanitarian and a christian association which provides help or support to alcohol or drugs addicts”. They offer residential treatment near Sibiu as well as an AA-type network. They also have an online forum which may be a useful first step for people to get involved. They seem to have a good reputation but it’s quite a small operation (probably because Romanians are not used to getting treatment for addiction).
List of detox and residential treatment centres
The Blue Cross have a list of detox centres which you can see here
They also have a short list of “post treatment centres” which includes their own one: Nazareth House. Nazereth House is located in a village near Sibiu and they also have another residential treatment centre in Sibiu county (good news for anyone living near Sibiu). There is one other residential centre in Transylvania, in Tirgu Mures, called “Bonus Pastor” (they also have an operation in Iasi).
Other treatment centres (outpatient)
The following list of treatment centres are outpatient centres, in other words you can only visit them for a session during the day. I assume that they are well connected to community support groups in their areas and you will see that the church plays an important part in these services (as it does in the AA approach):
● The St. Nektarios Program in Bucharest (I couldn’t find a website for this service)
Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous in Romania
As mentioned above, there are AA and NA groups all over the world helping people beat their addictions. The beauty of the AA methodology lies in its simplicity; the concept is that a “recovered” alcoholic is the best person to help an alcoholic recover as he/she knows what they are going through. AA groups tend to be small, discreet, self-financing (they don’t fundraise or use money) and are self organizing. I have come across one in Bucharest for foreigners and there is apparently one at Hospital Obregia in Bucharest, run by a psychiatrist, which is unusual (in the west the medical profession don’t get involved in AA meetings, but they do recommend them). To find out more about AA in Romania click here
As I mentioned above, I represent the British rehab clinic Castle Craig. With 27 therapists and over 100 beds, we are one of the best resourced rehab clinics in Western Europe and we would like to take this opportunity of sharing some of our information about the various types of treatment services we offer. Hopefully it will be useful as a reference site.
● A presentation of TREATMENT at Castle Craig, with more detail on trauma therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, eating disorders, relapse prevention, coping skills, Women’s group therapy, EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) which is form of trauma therapy.
● Here you can read about our use of oxygen therapy in treating the damaged livers and brains of the addicts (oxygen also helps the addicts sleep better and recover their appetites)
● Here you can see a presentation video from Castle Craig.
● If you click here you can see (anonymous) testimonials of ex-patients
Rupert Wolfe Murray is a freelance editor and PR Consultant. He works in Scotland and Romania as a PR advisor to Castle Craig Hospital.