Alcohol and drug-abuse and addiction continue to grow in the Czech Republic, especially among many young people, who, for various reasons turn to drugs and alcohol to escape. All too often, many end up hitting rock bottom, a bitter reality that Monika Plocová knows well. The 42-year-old therapist works with groups of alcoholics and drug addicts at the Bohnice psychiatric hospital, helping them try and beat their addiction. She has published several books on the subject and herself battled alcoholism before undergoing treatment nine years ago and later completing a degree in order to be able to help others. Her latest book, Ventil (translatable as “outlet” - as in an outlet for escape) is aimed at helping young people avoid the allure of drugs and the dead end of addiction.

Monika Plocová

I caught up with the therapist and author at a Prague seminar this week:
“The book is the story of a group of young people who hang out on Charles Square, a mix of different characters. It’s fiction but based on real people and real stories. Including how they end up. Unfortunately some of the stories are tragic. One of the characters is Tereza, who I knew and liked very much: she was one of those in my group. She came from a very difficult background: no support at home - her mother an alcoholic. At just 15, she had to carry the weight of her family situation on her shoulders and today is very badly off. She’s at hope’s end and I have to say, in her case, her family was largely responsible.”

Even caring parents, say activists, often see the warning signs too late: Plocová’s book is also aimed at them. It isn’t easy to admit or face the fact one’s child may be on drugs, especially a hard drug like the highly-addictive Pervetin (methamphetamine).

The author has seen the very worst:
“I came into contact with some very extreme cases in the past, at one centre where it was too late and the families had already cut ties. Their kids had changed to the point where their personalities had disintegrated. They were lost: needle marks up and down their arms, with Hepatitis C, some even with AIDS. In Bohnice, by comparison, you do at least get a case where at least some families remain involved, listening to their child’s problems – remaining supportive.”

Dr. Václav Dvořák

Specialists like Bohnice’s Dr. Václav Dvořák, say communities or society as a whole needs to send a different message:

“The first question is whether society is ready to tackle the problem and take steps to lower risk of young people getting hooked. Society has to send a message. We always hear about how prevention is needed, but all we ever really witness is when it’s too late and you’re putting out fires. That’s not right. The Czech Republic is too lenient on alcohol consumption and that doesn’t help. Parents’ drinking – and the risks this can hold for their children – isn’t taken seriously. There are plenty of warning signs one can address, but not enough is being done.”

Bohnice psychiatric hospital

The challenges are daunting, but that doesn’t mean anyone’s giving up hope. Monika Plocová says there is always that, no matter how slim, for clients, once in therapy. It’s never easy and never overnight. But she points to her own experience with groups at Bohnice and success stories she’s seen:

“I have been involved with addiction for a while: I myself was addicted to alcohol, and I know it can be beaten. I haven’t touched a drop in nine years. I work with women who have suffered crises in their lives and because I have mixed groups there have also been cases where I had both mothers and daughters: the mother hooked on alcohol, the daughter on drugs, both sharing their experiences.

“I am certain it is possible to break addiction. There is no full cure – we will always be former addicts – but you can stop. But you mustn’t touch alcohol or drugs ever again. I have known people who broke their addiction, some of them after fifteen or even twenty programmes, but they did.”

Ventil is Mrs Plocová’s fourth book on addiction, but the only one to look at drugs and teens. Her publisher, journalist Lenka Cervenkova, has high hopes that like her previous work, the latest book can make a difference.

“I think if we can help even just one person that will be great. Professionally, I am a journalist focused on psychology health issues, as well as children’s books, so I think that this is probably my mission in my life. I want to help people. This is a form of help, to publish these books, so I will be really happy if they do. I did have good feedback from the previous books, from addicts who got in touch, found my address somewhere, and told me they were happy I had published those titles. ”

She also says books on the subject are needed: when she was younger there were two that were available on the Czech scene which Radek John’s Memento and the German book Christiane F. – known in Czech as My deti ze stanice zoo – Children of Zoo Station.

“It’s very difficult to be a teenager and it’s very easy to fall into the trap of drugs. As a publisher I want teens to realize there are much better ways to get by than drugs. To start using drugs, to fall back on drugs, is to take-up the path to hell.”

Author and specialist Monika Plocová again.

Most of these young people don’t feel security at home and don’t communicate with their parents, and the first thing, try to escape to join their friends. To find an outlet. They have their personal problems and they want to escape.
Monica Plocová, Adictolog