Family Support Around the World: Iran

A series of blogs about families and substance use by our Policy and Research Assistant, Rebecca McColl.

In July 2021, researchers Azam Pilevari and Mohammed Zahedi Asl published an article regarding the effectiveness of The Congress 60 Treatment Method (DOI). Congress 60 (C60) is an independent organisation based in Iran and works to reduce substance use and offer individuals and families support in several ways (Research Recovery Institute, 2017).

How does it work?

Congress 60 works as a three-step journey:

  1. An 11-month long pharmacotherapy treatment consisting of opium tincture. Opium tincture is made of air-dried poppy latex and can also contain morphine or codeine (National Cancer Institute, 2021). This treatment is common in Iran as opium use is culturally tolerated (Noroozi et al, 2021).
  2. An individual then focuses on physical, mental, emotional rejuvenation and self-growth.
  3. The ongoing process of understanding the “order and mystery” of the universe (coming to an understanding of what life means, I think?!).

All of these steps are used to reconstruct an individual’s personal identity, relationships and daily lifestyle. Both family members and their loved one have access to individual counselling sessions and a range of psychological, social and recreational activities.

The Facts
  • According to the World Health Organization, the Iran Drug Control Headquarters declared that in 2015 there were 2,808,000 people between 15 and 64 years old that were dependent on illegal drugs.
  • There are around 11.2 million individuals affected by someone else’s substance use in Iran.
  • Evidence in Iran suggests that family involvement can have a positive impact on a loved one entering treatment and can improve treatment results.
  • Little research had previously been done on how changes within the family can impact people who use drugs.
What do the findings do for us?

The research argues that often, family members can act in a ‘hostile way’ when family stability is threatened, or when they are ‘chronically trapped in familiar patterns of interactions.’ Families make attempts to help their loved one who is using substances in a range of ways, including help to end their substance use, which can often go untaken. The researchers argue this cycle is caused by a lack of a whole-family/culture approach in treatment. Rights, Respect and Recovery has highlighted this as an area that needs improvement in Scotland. However, many families are yet to see and experience the implementation of the family-inclusive practice, despite the strategy being published 3 years ago in 2018.

Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) used by practitioners at Scottish Families works with family members to improve communication with their loved one who uses substances in order to improve relationships, stability and remove the possibility of ‘hostility’, as described by the researchers. CRAFT has similar principles to the C60 method, as both help family members to be better equipped to control and respond to reoccurring challenges and situations. The success of C60 in Iran shows the importance and impact a whole-family approach can have. Family members engaged with C60 said the programme was life-changing for them, as they now “think about” themselves more, and restarted old hobbies that had been lost whilst supporting their loved one who used drugs. The researchers concluded that C60 gave family members control over their own circumstances and rebuilt positive relationships between the person using drugs and the family members involved in the treatment. Knowledge and research into global whole-family approaches strengthen the need for families’ voices to be heard in their loved one’s treatment.

What are your thoughts on C60? What would you like to see in the next post? Email with any thoughts or comments.

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