Reports Document Widespread Abuse in Caribbean Drug Treatment Centers

Recent studies on drug treatment facilities in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic reveal a litany of abuse carried out in the name of rehabilitation, a practice that violates human rights and is sadly all too common in the region.

The Center for Integrated Research and Training (Centro de Orientacion e Investigacion Integral - COIN) recently published findings of their investigation into the conditions of drug treatment facilities in the Dominican Republic, reported Hoy Digital.

The major issues that consistently arose from interviews with patients included overcrowding, a shortage of food, physical and verbal abuse, and forced labor. What's more, in the centers only one in three managers and one in five therapists had any form of higher education or training, COIN found.

This lack of trained and competent staff means that any form of counseling or medical treatment is limited to non-existent, with some facilities opting for a faith-based model that pushes prayer as the primary route to recovery.

As the report notes, "None of these forms of therapy have scientific backing supporting their effectiveness."

Worryingly, the Dominican Republic is by no means an isolated case when it comes to barbaric treatment facilities. Intercambios Puerto Rico similarly released a report this month highlighting widespread abuse within the country's drug treatment centers that mirrors what's being seen in the Dominican Republic, including detention without consent and patients being bullied by staff in order to shame them for their addiction.

The Intercambios report comes on the back of recent investigations by This American Life and WBEZ Chicago that found Puerto Rican drug users are in some cases shipped out of the country for "treatment" in the United States, only to suffer at similarly ill-equipped and ideologically-driven facilities. 

The dearth of adequate rehabilitation centers in Latin America and the Caribbean is well documented. For example, reports emerged last year in Guatemala of hunting parties being sent out to round up drug users on the streets and detain them in private centers offering no psychological or physiological assistance, a practice that's sprung up largely due to the void left by government inaction on treating drug dependency. 

In an effort to curb these gross violations of human rights, the United Nations called on members states in 2012 to ensure the practice of forced treatment is ended and replaced with "voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based health and social services in the community."

Clearly -- though perhaps unsurprisingly given the non-binding nature of such UN statements -- governments are a long way from heeding this call.

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