Drug addiction treatment programs in Croatia

Addiction is still a taboo topic in Croatia. Drug addiction is not discussed in public. Most people are uninformed about drug use and addiction and do not distinguish between light and heavy drugs. For example, cannabis users are often put into the same bucket as those that use heavier drugs like heroin.

It is not commonly understood that drug addiction is a psychological problem and medical condition, instead marking those suffering from addiction as criminals.

The government in cooperate with the Croatian Institute of Public Health offers programs focused on drug abuse prevention. These programs are mostly conducted in Croatian schools. A full list of these programs can be found here.

Treatment programs for drug addiction are also available through government and non-governmental organizations, which we will dive into deeper in this post.

Breaking drug addiction with treatment
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Drug Addiction Treatment in Croatia

Available drug addiction treatment programs in Croatia include:

1. Governmental institutions:

  • Bolničko liječenje (Hospital treatment)
  • Izvanbolničko liječenje (Outpatient treatment)
  • Psihosocijalni tretman (Psychosocial treatment) at governmental institutions

2. Non-governmental institutions:

  • Terapijske zajednice (Therapeutic communities)
  • Domovi za ovisnike (Rehabilitation centers for drug addicts)
  • Udruge (Non-governmental organizations)

The available services related to drug addiction treatment in Croatia include:

  • Pharmacotherapy (methadone and buprenorphine for opiate addicts)
  • Psychotherapy for addicts
  • Family support and psychotherapy treatment
  • Education about the disease and relapse prevention strategies
  • Infection prevention with testing (HIV, viral hepatitis, syphilis)
  • Social interventions and support for social reintegration measures
  • Urine testing
  • Comorbidity therapy
  • Care for somatic health
  • Self-help programs usage – NGO supportive programs, clubs for addicts in treatment, etc.

State-subsidized Drug Addiction Treatment

Drug addiction treatment can be very complicated, and as a result, many specialists are required. Those specialists help treat addiction, assist with reintegration into the community, and help recovering patients to lead healthier lives.

HZZO (Croatian Health Insurance Fund) pays for medical treatments related to drug addiction and recovery.

The following specialists may be included in the treatment process, depending on the case:

  • Psihijatri (psychiatrists)
  • Doktori raznih specijalizacija (doctors of different specialties)
  • Psiholozi (psychologists)
  • Socijalni radnici (social workers)
  • Socijalni pedagozi (social pedagogues)
  • Liječnici obiteljske medicine (family medicine doctors)
  • Radni terapeuti (occupational therapists)
  • Volonteri (volunteers)
Fighting drug addiction
Image by D’Amore Healthcare

First Steps in Drug Treatment

There is no official recommendation about where someone should go first when looking for help. Someone can be checked into a hospital if their condition is severe by themselves, a friend or a family member. Others may see their family doctor or contact a community or other non-governmental institution for assistance.

A full list of institutions specializing in drug treatment can be found here.

Hospital Treatment

Those in need of drug addiction assistance may check in for hospital treatment, which lasts from 16 days to 3 months. Hospital treatment can be implemented at psychiatric hospitals, general, county and clinical hospitals, as well as at the prison hospital in Zagreb.

The process includes detoxification, pharmacotherapy, and psycho-social treatment programs. Depending on the type of therapies needed, the following treatments and services are available:

  • Detoxification from opiates, methadone, buprenorphine, sedatives
  • Abstinence testing (with or without pharmacotherapy)
  • Adequate methadone dose testing
  • Transfer from lower doses of methadone to buprenorphine or naltrexone
  • Transfer from high doses of methadone to buprenorphine (includes temporary substitution with MST cont.)
  • Therapy revisions and psychic stabilization for comorbidity complications
  • Relapse prevention

Most people are treated at Psihijatrijska bolnica Vrapče and KBC Sestre Milosrdnice in Zagreb.

Non-profit Drug Addiction Treatment

Non-government institutions and non-profit organizations play a very important role in drug addiction treatment. The organizations offer a safe place where current and former drug addicts can talk about their addiction and get mental support.

Those who suffer addiction have the opportunity to use services offered at homes for children or adults who are addicted to alcohol, drugs and other substances, but also in therapeutic communities. Adults can use those services for 3 years maximum and juveniles can use them for 1 year. They may live in these homes during treatment, which may also include regular or occasional help from professionals and other social workers.

These institutions also provide:

  • Social and counseling services
  • Psycho-social assistance and support
  • Occupational therapy and activities
  • Health care and psychological support

The following non-profit organizations have SOS telephone lines which you can call any time:

Group drug addiction therapy
Image by Therapy Associates

Anonimni narkomani Hrvatska (Narcotics Anonymous Croatia)

Anonimni narkomani Hrvatska (Narcotics Anonymous Croatia) is a non-profit society of people who meet regularly to help each other stay clean from drugs through talking about their struggle with addiction. Membership is free and open to all who suffer addiction, no matter which drug they used.

This organization provides a recovery process and peer support network where members share their success and challenges in overcoming active addiction and living drug-free and productive lives.

At this time, meetings are only held in Zagreb. You can check meeting times here.

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