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Ethical Drug Rehabs in South Africa - Why Ethical Treatment is Important

Despite the large number of rehabs in South Africa, it’s unclear how many of them operate within the scope of ethical rehabilitation practices.

The success of a person’s addiction recovery depends largely on the way they are treated while undergoing rehabilitation.

Rehab centres are obliged both morally and legally to enforce ethical standards of practice as a non-negotiable part of their program.

Ethical rehabs in South Africa - holistic addiction treatment

Why is ethics in addiction treatment important?

Ethics can be defined as moral principles that influence a person’s behaviour as well as the way in which they treat others.

Ethical rehab centres in South Africa implement a particular code of ethics which serve to educate staff as well as raise awareness regarding the dynamics and importance of ethical behaviour and treatment.

Additionally, this code provides a clear indication of what is acceptable and what is not, how to treat patients and what is expected of staff during work hours.

Addiction doesn’t have preferences

Compassion and empathy any vital to any addiction treatment.

People who turn to substance abuse and become addicted often do so as a means of escaping from a reality that is too painful to cope with on a sober level.

There are many cases where a person’s circumstances are out of their control and this doesn’t make them bad people.

Previously, addiction was associated with criminals, the homeless or uneducated.

However, research has allowed our thinking to evolve passed these restrictive beliefs. We now know that many substance abusers are teenagers, former soldiers, policeman or veterans and even housewives.

Simply put, addicts are humans – with families, feelings and dreams of their own.

They also have the right to addiction recovery and the severity of their addiction should in no way compromise the level of respect and dignity they are treated with by the staff of a facility.

Moral Principles which create the Foundation for Professional Code of Ethics


  • - Autonomy – the staff’s ability to remain uninfluenced by external factors. This concept also applies to the patient’s right to self-determination.
  • - Non-maleficence – doing no harm towards the patient.
  • - Beneficence – making a concerted effort to help a patient or improve their situation.
  • - Justice – this means that each patient will be treated with equity and fairness.
  • - Fidelity – faithfully honouring commitments and pledges.
  • - Veracity – unwavering truthfulness.


Always Help and Never Do Harm

People who are in the early stages of recovery are vulnerable, making them particularly susceptible to exploitation of various kinds.

Consequently, emphasis is placed on the principles of justice, non-maleficence and beneficence.

It’s important that the professionals at treatment centres are available to support and comfort patients during times of need.

The duty of the people working at any addiction treatment centre is to care for, support and provide none bias treatment.

Confidentiality is Non-Negotiable

Just as any person has the right to privacy, so does a person seeking treatment. A lack of confidentiality may negatively influence a person’s decision to seek treatment.

Additionally, sharing confidential information may cause significant legal and personal implications for the individual while causing them unnecessary humiliation.

In the case of a minor, information may be shared with their guardians, however, this is only done with the child’s best interests at heart.

Cases of child abuse, medical emergencies, compliance with court orders or when a patient harms themselves or threatens to harm themselves, complete confidentiality cannot always be guaranteed.

If there is a need to share any confidential information, the relevant staff members of the facility are required to inform the patient in advance.

Respectful Treatment

Dignified treatment of patients in rehabilitation centres includes but is not limited to the following:


  • - Utmost respect of their privacy
  • - Polite interaction at all times
  • - Refraining from talking about subjects that clearly make them uncomfortable
  • - Not making jokes about them
  • - Calling them by their preferred name
  • - Never behaving in homophobic, racist or any other discriminatory ways
  • - Never invading their personal space


Self-determination of the Client

Drug and alcohol abuse negatively impacts a person’s ability to make rational decisions. Therefore, the amount of self-determination or autonomy that should be available to them is a truly controversial topic of discussion.

A patient's religious and world views, cultural background and gender variation are some of the factors to consider when applying the appropriate level of autonomy. This is in order to preserve their overall determination and encourage compliance.

In situations where the client is declared unfit to make rational decisions, their right to autonomy may be limited or withheld. Otherwise, patients have a full right to be involved in any decision that will directly affect them.

Informed consent plays a vital role in the patient’s willingness to comply with the programme.

Ethical Rehabilitation Programs

When a rehab centre shows that the patients’ rights are of utmost importance, it means that they are dedicated to providing a high quality, ethical rehabilitation programme.

Ethical programmes have a direct link to successful and sustainable recovery which is the main priority of any rehab program. If a patient feels unprotected, unsafe or disrespected, their recovery is immediately jeopardised.

Addicted people who are in recovery want the opportunity to be respected, heard and acknowledged and it’s the duty of the staff to ensure that these fundamental rights are seen to.

Ethical Rehabs in South Africa – Step Away Rehab Centre

Step Away strives to be one of the best rehabilitation centres in South Africa. We take every possible measure to uphold the rights and dignity of our patients.

For more information about our rehabilitation centre and treatment programmes, please contact us.

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