Joachim Körkel

Ashoka Fellow
Germany, Europe
Fellow Since 2009


This profile was prepared when Joachim Körkel was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Equipped with insights into the strengths and weaknesses of alcohol reduction programs that he has put into action in Germany since 1999, Joachim launched the KISS program in 2005. KISS is a behavioral self-control program with the goal of enabling people with multiple uses of illegal and legal drugs to reduce their drug intake step by step. KISS consists of two individual assessment sessions and 12 weekly group or individual sessions conducted by one or two KISS trainers. Within the program future drug addicts learn to monitor and record their drug intake day after day in a consumption diary, to set weekly consumption goals, to use individualized reduction strategies, to cope with high-risk situations and lapses/relapses. Besides the consumption diary KISS participants receive working and information sheets to support the learning process.

Throughout the KISS program and in accordance with KISS’s spirit of self-determination of program participants is appreciated and strengthened and people are welcome to participate irrespective of the severity of their drug problem (misuse, dependency), the kind and number of substance(s) they want to tackle and the speed of change they choose.

In the run-up to KISS, potential clients are contacted in informal cafés of drug treatment centers, safe injection rooms, accommodation centers for the homeless, or counseling centers. In conversations that respect self-determination and avoid resistance (“Don’t tell me what I have to do!”) intrinsic motivation for change is set free by use of the diverse methods of “Motivational Interviewing” (Miller & Rollnick, 2002). Driven by their own motivation, addicts then work within the KISS program to reduce their consumption and regain control of their lives.

In a scientific study with random allocation of skid row drug addicts to a KISS group or a waiting-list control group (WL) the effectiveness of KISS could be demonstrated: During the 4 months of KISS treatment there were nearly no drop-outs (10 percent). At end of treatment KISS participants had reduced their total drug intake by 30 percent (WL: 4 percent), raised the number of abstinent days by 19 percent (WL: 3 percent) and spent 36 percent less money (-244 Euro) for drugs (WL: 3 percent) than at the beginning of the study. Beyond that only 12 percent of KISS participants but 24 percent of WL needed costly inpatient detoxification treatment. In a 6-month follow-up all program effects persisted and a remarkable number of participants had moved to abstinence from one or another substance (e.g. 13 percent from heroin, 17 percent from cocaine, and 28 percent from tranquilizers). In sum KISS helps drug addicts to reduce their drug intake and to save drug related expenditures. For society this means a cut in treatment costs, drug-related crime, and prostitution.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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