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17 Mar, 2009 05:52

Drug rehab closed for resident abuse

Drug addiction afflicts many parts of the world and some countries use tougher measures than others in helping people. But one rehab clinic in central Russia has been accused of being too heavy-handed in its approach.

It raises the question of where intense treatment ends, and psychological abuse begins.

The women at the Dolphin Rehab Centre are united by heroin abuse – and their wish to kick the habit.

And even though they’ve tried to make the most of their surroundings, the facts are sad and simple.

Katya has been in rehab for four months.

Brought here by her mother, she says it's her last hope.

“It was just so bad. And it had to stop. I was out of control. I broke the door to my mother’s bedroom with my bare hands, stole her things and sold them. Anything for a fix,” said Katya.

Across the hall from the women's room are the men.

At first glance, they're regular young men – reading magazines or enjoying a game of chess.

But their knowledge of the world's most lethal drug is also first hand.

The Dolphin Rehab Centre was opened a few years ago by a former addict, and went on to become home for dozens in need of help.

That changed a few days ago when special forces raided the centre after receiving a number of complaints of physical and psychological abuse.

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affiars said the center's staff used clubs and electric shockers as methods of 'therapy'.

All 97 residents were taken to the police station for questioning.

Police say the addicts were regularly handcuffed, beaten and starved – all under the pretence of 'helping them'. A police source also said that the rehab center is not legal.

“In October 2008 in the city of Krasnokamsk the center was illegaly organized and used harsh methods, including handcuffs and electroshock therapy,” the source told ITAR-TASS.

When complaints first started to surface, the center's administration refused to allow police onto the premises. After the police received threats of violence and juridical action, they decided to storm the building where they found the shocking evidence of torture. Shocking photographs were discovered that depicted the pain inflicted upon the patients.

Standing in front of baseball bats and sets of handcuffs, Acting Police Chief Valery Gagarin said, “All this was taken from the rehab centre. We also have photos and video material that proves many people were regularly abused. The rehab directors also made their residents sign this paper where they agree to being beaten, deprived of food and handcuffed.”

Thirty people filed complaints of abuse, and were taken home by police.

But surprisingly, many chose to return to rehab – saying they simply had nowhere else to go.

But the director of the centre says the police attention is unwarranted.

“There was no physical evidence of any beatings or abuse. And if at least one person told us they wanted to go – we would have let them. It's not like we keep them locked up,” said Aleksandr Shromov, the director of the City Without Drugs Fund.

Police officers disagree.

“There was a metal door here that’s now gone. And there was a huge lock,” said Acting Chief Gagarin.

As for the handcuffs, both the directors and residents believe it to be an effective method of help.

“It's necessary, and there is no other way at first. There are loads of other centres – medical, religious – that offer help – but none of it works. Trust me, I've tried,” said Katya.

There may be no right or wrong in this story.

But there is an 'illegal' – and it's now up to the prosecution to decide whether the habit of abusing addicts is one that should be kicked.

If so, the cuffs may end up on other people's hands.

The region has already come under scrutiny when details of mistreatment in psychiatric hospitals surfaced which showed gruesome torture and even sterilization.