A recent increase in admissions, from the usual 50 a month to 70, is straining the Kingdom’s second-largest drug rehab centre, which receives little support from NGOs or the govt
Photo by: ELEANOR AINGE ROY
Patients at the Battambang Drug Rehabilitation Center, where a recent increase in admissions is straining staff.
THE Battambang Drug Rehabilitation Center - the Kingdom's second-largest facility - has seen an increase in admissions since June and is struggling to cope with the extra patients, who require 24-hour care during the withdrawl stage of treatment.
Orn Chris Sao Mundal, deputy director of Military Police in Battambang and director of the centre, said the problem is being compounded by the rising cost of food in the market and a lack of NGO support.
"Our budget is not big enough to adequately provide for their living. Staples such as education, medicine and materials for exercise are all being compromised," he said.
The Battambang Drug Rehabilitation Center currently houses 883 patients, but over the last few months admissions have increased. The centre usually receives about 50 drug abusers a month, but this has jumped to 70. The majority of the patients are aged between 18 and 34.
Orn Chris Sao Mundal said he didn't know the exact cause of the spike but said he suspected it was driven by changing demographics of the workforce. "Cambodian migrant workers on the border with Thailand who are abusing drugs are on the rise. They work long, hard days and they use drugs to give them extra energy," he said.
Who foots the bill?
Families of patients at the rehabilitation centre are typically required to contribute 30,000 riels (US$7.35) per month to the care of their relations. However, if a family is too poor to contribute, staff members are forced to dip into their own rice rations. When things are very tight, the Cambodian Red Cross provides assistance, but this will only last for a maximum of a few months.
The centre generally houses patients for three months of treatment, but in special cases this can be extended to six months, and sometimes even a year.
Orn Chris Sao Mundal claims that only 9 percent of patients from his centre relapse, and this is uniformly because they did not finish the whole three months of treatment.
The centre's three-step program of treatment differs from other facilities in the country. In the first stage, patients must live and work inside the compound. During the second stage, they must live inside the compound but are allowed to work outside. In the third stage, they return to their homes. The second stage is the most crucial, as it is a chance for users to access drugs again, and for workers at the centre to stop them if they see such behaviour.
Kem Bory, 28, has been in the centre for one year and used to be addicated to methamphetamine.
"When I needed money [for drugs], I used to steal it from my parents. That is why I have to stay here now. I have to be good to my parents. I tainted their honour and I wasted my time."