Pubdate: Sat, 27 May 2006
Source: Times Of Malta (Malta)
Copyright: 2006 Allied Newspapers Limited
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)
Bookmark: (Hallucinogens)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


The 2005 national report on drug abuse used 2004 as its basis year and
was published last week. This suggests an unfortunate - one may even
call it an unacceptable - lag between the basis year and the year of
assessment 18 months later.

Data collection demands a greater sense of urgency. There can be no
valid reason why data for 2004 should not be collated by the first
quarter of 2005 and the report put together by mid-2005 for a national
drug policy to be formulated within three months of that.

What emerges from this late report is that the most popular drug is
cannabis with ecstasy a close second. Cocaine, heroin, LSD and
amphetamines in that order follow these. Given the current policy that
maintains a zero tolerance towards drug abuse, even as the necessary
services are offered for those who do abuse, the picture is not a
pretty one; nor is it completely disheartening.

There are silver linings provided by the fact that a third of heroin
users seek and receive support services to kick the potentially lethal
habit. Even in the case of cannabis, Malta has one of the smallest
percentages of users aged 15 to 64 (with Bulgaria and Romania) in Europe.

During 2004, 1,525 cases made use of treatment agencies. One final
statistic: Arrests made by the Drug Squad increased enormously between
2003 and 2004 and 64 per cent of those taken into custody were aged
between 19 and 30 with 89 per cent of these being men.

There is a positive note too. The police are doing a fine job in
cracking down on drugs. Their success rate in homing in on hauls,
discovering considerable amounts of heroin, cocaine and thousands of
ecstasy pills that would otherwise have found their way to market, is
well documented. All this, of course, points to a strong demand. Sadly
and tragically, there are a number who inhabit the murky world of drug

The bottom line of any national policy on drug abuse, from trafficking
to supply to big deals, must take as its starting point the simple
truth that our youngsters are too precious an asset to be corrupted by
drugs when they should be looking forward to taking on the challenges
of life.

Last February, as a counter-point to this ideal, a ministerial reply
by the Education Minister stated that 23 students in state and four in
Church schools, ranging in age from 14 to 17, were found in possession
of drugs on school premises. How is it that these children felt safe
enough to carry drugs to school, presumably from home? Or did they
purchase them on the way to, or from, school? With whose money?

The idea of a 14-year-old strutting willingly to school and hoping to
make it through the morning in a haze of marijuana is unsettling. So
we remain enraged by the thought that dealers and their suppliers and
the big fish that keep suppliers in business take risks that corrupt
teenagers at the younger end of their teens.

The war on drugs is not won, far from it. The urgent need for a
national policy that embraces the entire activity, prevention, use and
abuse, dealers, suppliers, treatment services and rehabilitation is
self-evident. The sooner the policy is in place, the better. There is
not a day to be lost. 
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