What San Patrignano has learned through many years, and what has become the founding principle of our “family/community”:
addiction is NOT a “chronic disease” but the symptom of an emotional void, an attempt to escape from oneself and from the world in general, a shortcut designed to avoid life’s problems and personal responsibility.
In 1978, San Patrignano was a family which opened its doors to young people looking for help. Through the years it has grown and assumed the dimensions of a village occupying 650 acres overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
At its heart, however, it is still the home of an ever growing family.
The most important key that we possess is the capacity to look beyond appearances, to discover talents and skills that need to be nurtured. When an individual knocks on our door asking for help, we do not see them as the sum of failures and mistakes but as a unique and special individual.
This capacity can be simply defined with the word “compassion”, but it would be inadequate if not wholly inaccurate.
If we treat people as unique and extraordinary individuals then we need to provide them with
They need to discover and nurture their talents and passions at the highest level possible, so that they can continue to lead their unique and extraordinary lives once they leave San Patrignano.
Beauty is an integral part of the recovery of each person who comes to San Patrignano.
No one has a greater necessity to be surrounded by beauty, to experience beauty and to feel like they themselves can create something beautiful than someone who has always been surrounded by the complete opposite: degradation, humiliation, compromise.
This is why we do not limit ourselves to creating a beautiful environment, as you have seen in the images we have just shown, but we also strive to utilize the best structures, the latest equipment and the best teachers and masters in every one of the more than 50 fields for which we provide professional training.
San Patrignano’s objective, therefore, is a complete drug free recovery and the full social reintegration of addicts, regardless of their drug of choice.
In fact, in 2006, about 60% of those welcomed at San Patrignano had never used a syringe.
Several Universities have studied and evaluated our methods and pronounced them highly effective, through sociological research and toxicological exams. Subjects were tested years after leaving the community - a full 72% of those tested with a hair strand examination after three, four and five years resulted drug free versus a worldwide average of about 18%.
San Patrignano is currently home to about 1800 people, each of them costing roughly 12,000 euro annually to maintain, which translates into a cost of just over 40 thousand euros for each completed recovery program.
Considering that three out of four of these completed programs are successful and proven to be relapse free, we can say that for each investment of about 160,000 euro, we are able to help three people fully recover from addiction and be permanently reintegrated into society as drug free individuals.
Many countries’ social policies however reflect the belief that drug addiction is a disease and that relapse is inevitable.
Believing it is impossible to cure addiction, the general goal has then become the reduction of social harm, through the stabilization of drug addicts rather than full rehabilitation, in the illusion that this also is the more financially convenient option.
Even when taking into account only the direct costs of drug addiction, such as methadone distribution, needle exchange and those for medical, psychiatric and legal assistance, the expense is enormous: in 2005 Italy spent 800 million euro,
France spent 1 billion while the United Kingdom spent almost 2 billion euro.
With 2 billion, in one year we could have placed 41,600 people into San Patrignano’s program!
Four years later, 31,200 of these people would have been fully recovered drug free and living their lives.
But as things stand currently, these 41,600 can only be multiplied over and over again into an ever increasing number of individuals subsisting on replacement therapies and revolving clinic and prison doors.
A waste of money, of potential and most tragically, of human life.
These numbers in turn must be multiplied by an indefinite number of years as these methods trap the addict into a state of chronic illness.
Nevertheless all these figures don’t take into account indirect costs such as lack of productivity and those psychiatric illnesses which often develop through years of abuse and instability.
And these astronomical costs hardly reflect the scarce results being obtained.
Let’s take prison into examination:
in Western Europe the average daily cost to maintain each prisoner is roughly 150 euros each day. And I believe we can all agree that those who leave prison are usually worse off than when they entered. In the UK alone the reoffender rate is 60%.
Since its founding, San Patrignano has welcomed more than 8600 people facing incarceration for crimes tied to their drug addiction, substituting more than 4000 years of jail time. This has meant more than 220 million euros of savings to the Italian tax payers.
San Patrignano is independently financed and doesn’t cost anything to its residents, their families or the state. But looking at these facts, it is plain that even if it were state funded, considering its success rate it would still be far more financially viable than the current practices in most of the Continent.
At this point you may be thinking, "wonderful, it works. But Is it replicable?"
We are currently collaborating with an important non-profit organization called Tomorrows people in the UK seeing the absence of other long term abstinence based programs and the lack of success enjoyed by harm reduction programs.
The project has gained the support of a number of prominent members of civil society and government that have recognized the failure of current drug policy in that country in terms of recovery drug free social reintegration.
We are providing them, free of charge, with the help they need to start the project and train their employees-already in Canada, Sweden and Holland we have helped start similar projects.
- It is therefore possible to replicate. It has been done.
We need to institute a radical change in drug policy we need to pass from hospitalization and chronicization of the drug addict to the education, to skills training providing a family environment to creating a sort of life-school.
We need to transform treatment centers from places where addicts are “treated” to places where individuals can grow and learn how to live.
From hospitals to schools. It can be done and we are ready to help. Other like Delancey street Foundation in the United States are also testimony to this.
Certainly it is not as easy as distributing substitutive therapies or psychiatric medications as occurs when too often drugs are regarded as a product and treatment as a sellable commodity.
Working in drug treatment is likewise a matter of education:
if we are to educate anyone, we have to be prepared to make a strong commitment, keeping it even in the most difficult of times.
Because it is through example that we teach.
Young people need constancy, honesty, dedication, patience, heart and a 24 hour a day commitment.
In the past twenty years this is exactly where we have stopped doing, and it is still what’s missing in Europe today.