Pubdate: Sat, 26 Jun 2004
Source: Times Of Malta (Malta)
Copyright: 2004 Allied Newspapers Limited
Author: Cynthia Busuttil


International Day Against Drugs

Countries around the globe today reunite to celebrate the International Day
Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking, organised by the United

The theme, Drugs: Treatment Works, chosen by the UN this year focuses on the
efficacy of treatment and emphasises its importance and effectiveness.

In Malta the drug problem is being tackled on two levels, that of
policy-making and service provision, Family and Social Solidarity Minister
Dolores Cristina told The Times.

She explained that on the policy level the ministry has set up a National
Commission Against the Abuse of Drugs, Alcohol and other Dependencies.
Consisting of a number of specialists, this commission advises the minister
on policies related to drug use and misuse.

"Currently, the commission is engaged in an EU-funded twinning programme
with the Netherlands to set up a National Focal Point, whose role is that of
collating drug-related data in order to provide a sounder evidence base for
national policies regarding both supply and demand reduction of drugs," she

With regard to the service provision, the minister said the national agency
against drugs and alcohol abuse, Sedqa, for which the ministry is
responsible, has for the last 10 years been at the forefront of the
prevention, treatment and care of persons with problems related to drug
misuse and their families.

The ministry also provides financial grants to non-governmental
organisations, including Caritas and the OASI Foundation, which are involved
in the treatment and care of persons with drug-related problems.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said it hopes to
diminish the stigma attached to drug users by showing the possibilities for
a positive future through the use of individuals who have successfully
completed treatment.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)
reiterated the UN's belief that treatment for drug dependence in the EU is
more "available, accessible and diverse".

The centre said figures from the 15 countries which were EU members before
May, covering the four years between 1999 - 2003, show substantial increases
in the services available.

The EMCDDA said drug abuse and dependence are chronic disorders, with the
risk of relapsing after treatment being an ever-present concern. It said
addiction treatment needs to be organised as a long-term, phased response
though the use of a combination of approaches.

In his message for the occasion, UN secretary general Kofi Annan said one of
the most damaging misconceptions about drug use is that it is a permanent

"The truth is that treatment for drug abuse can work and can restore value
and dignity to a person's life," he said, adding that the theme for this
year aimed to correct this misconception.

Asked how Malta was adhering to the UN's and the EMCDDA's theme of treatment
for drugs, Ms Cristina said the EU's drug strategy for 2000 - 2004 aimed to
substantially increase the accessibility of treatment.

"Malta has been very successful in this area. More of the drug users are now
seeking treatment. It is estimated that just under two-thirds of those using
drugs have sought treatment from one of the service-providers available,"
she said. 
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