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Over 20 years of voluntary work carried out by Maria Louisa Scicluna with the OASI Foundation have been duly recognised with the presentation of the National Award for Voluntary Work. During these years Scicluna carried out voluntary duties in administration, and gave sapport to various families. Marisa, as she is popularly known, also set up a group of some 60 volunteers to provide support to the foundation.

This National award for Voluntary Service is organised by the Council for the Voluntary Sector under the patronage of President George Vella. Dr Vella pointed out that voluntary service is important and is one of the mainstays of society. In the words of the President, the work being carried out by organisations working in various voluntary sectors is invaluable. Vella added that no society, in any country, can function unless these services are provided by voluntary organisations.

The National Award gives recognition to the work carried out by volunteers and voluntary organisations within the community and highlights these exemplary values for youths and society.

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Jump For Life & Gostra - End of the Year Challenge. This even was the idea of a drug addict who has started his recovery process to rehabilitation 18 years ago at OASI. The idea behind this event is to serve as an encouragement to persons who feel the need to change and ask for help, but still lack the courage to make that leap and JUMP.

The challenge consisted in jumping in the 14°C sea and swimming a distance of 160m, and coming out of the water facing F5 wind temperature of 10°C. The Gostra competitors did their jump several times.

However the atmosphere and the vibe generated by the crowd present and the competitors was warming and encouraging.

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The OASI Foundation has been operating int the field of addiction since 1991. We have noticed several changes in drug use scene and related trends, for which we have responded in our prevention strategies and treatment modalities to cater for such needs.

The National focal point (NFP) in its National Report on the Drug Situation in Malta 2019 shows clearly that 40% of those entering treatment for the first time do so because of their cocaine abuse and its related problems. These national figures are also reflected in our clientele, where 44% are requesting treatment for cocaine abuse, against the 25% for alcohol abuse, 16% for heroin and 9% for cannabis amongst others.

This does reflect the false perception in our society – the belief that cocaine use is not harmful. Cocaine, like alcohol and cannabis, are considered by the layman as recreational drugs. These figures clearly show that cocaine problematic use is on the increase and persons and families are becoming victims of such false belief.

The mental and financial harm caused by the use of these substances is increasingly devastating, and the severity of cases is increasing.
Our beneficiaries do report that substance use during these festive activities increases. This is also confirmed by the increased number of arrests and seizures of these substances during this time of year.

The use of the substances and even more so, the mix of these substances, cause an alteration in perception and awareness, which is directly reflected in decision making. We see the drastic negative effect of these decisions on daily bases in the persons and families we work with.
We do urge the various members of our society to re-embrace the belief that enjoyment is not being high on drugs and that drugs do not lead to enjoyment in the long run. We do encourage people to think before making use of any kind of drug and that there is professional help for persons and their families who are being affected by substance abuse. We are noticing parts of this society who are finding enjoyment and pleasures in healthy behaviors such as sports and culture.

The OASI Foundation offers professional therapy and treatment to persons and their families with addiction difficulties both on community based and residential bases, as well as offers prevention awareness and consultation to community groups, community leaders and employers.

The OASI Foundation takes this opportunity to wish everyone a clean and sober Christmas and New Year.

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Today, 18th June, the OASI Foundation together with the Naxxar Local Council organized a National Conference under the Distinct Patronage of H.E. Dr. George Vella, President of Malta, with the title Drugs...and Mental Health? Reality, Health and Prevention.  The conference was held at Villa Arrigo and was moderated by Mr. Clifford Galea.

Hon. Dr. Michael Falzon, Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity, emphasized how important it is that all service providers in the social field work together to achieve their common goals.  He stated that the involvement of the Presidency is proof of the importance of the subject in question and the Government's commitment in tackling these issues. 

Ms. Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami, Mayor of Naxxar, said the local council looks forward to this annual conference and commits to their continuous support of OASI and its message.

Mr. Manuel Gellel, on behalf of the National Focal Point on Drugs and Drug Addiction, Ms. Sharon Arpa, representing Sedqa, Dr. Anton Grech, Psychiatrist and Chairperson of Mental Health Services, and Prof. Richard Muscat, Director of the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Biobanking, discussed present statistics, the connection between drug use disorders and mental health disorders, and gave their recommendations on how the current situation can be improved. 

Mr. Noel Xerri, Chief Executive of OASI, emphasised that everyone has a duty to contribute so that together we can tackle the problem of drug use. He stated that whoever believes that drug use causes harm to society is a contributor and collaborator. He also mentioned that the law needs to give clear direction on these matters, and needs to be based on scientific evidence.

H.E. Dr. George Vella, President of Malta closed the conference by saying that we cannot forget that when we are mentioning statistics, we are talking about actual people, many of whom are doing their best to deal with their problems. He also mentioned that we need to reduce the stigma related to mental health and drug use disorders and certain labelling should be eliminated. Finally, he closed his speech by addressing the issue of cannabis stating that we need to learn from experts and other countries and that as a medical doctor and a father he doesn’t believe that recreational cannabis should be legalised and its use should be limited only to medical one.

Read H.E. the President's full address here.

The audience was an active participant in the National Conference, and included representatives from diverse fields, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, educators, persons working with youths and students. 

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The Maltese Association of Psychiatry and OASI Foundation, together with other professionals have been studying the drugs scene as part of our daily work. We have witnessed changes, not only in the variety of new drugs available on the market but also in quantity and quality of drugs, namely more potent forms of psychoactive substances being available on the market. Of greater concern is the change in pattern of drug use and the fact that this is often tagged as recreational despite obvious repercussions on users’ well-being.  These findings are compared against international data and studies.

We are concerned with the increased availability of drugs. Treatment demand indicators proof an increase in recreational drugs and drug use, mostly cocaine and cannabis. We have also noticed a decrease in new onset heroin use. Drug use, nowadays, is not tied to any social strata or cohort, but treatment demands arrive from persons of all social levels and standards, most with no family history of substance use disorders or other mental health problems.

We have registered a change in the manner by which users approach drugs, especially those kinds that are looked upon as recreational ones. Most users are not conscious nor cautious of the substances they make use of. Most of the harm caused by drugs is gradual and covered by its euphoric and relaxing effect. It is only visible in time.

Drug use has been with us for ages, and it will remain with us. Consenting and approving it is different from acknowledging its existence and devise strategies to heal it.

We remain wholly committed to providing care and treatment for persons with substance use disorders and their families. We believe that punishing illegal use is often counterproductive, although we have encountered cases where law enforcement was a motivator towards a more satisfying and fulfilling life away of all substance abuse. We do not want to stigmatise users or discriminate against them – we work with these persons day in day out and we base our practices on ethical standards.

We have also stated in the past that we do agree with the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, under scientifically proven practices and strict protocols.

In view of the proposal to legalise cannabis for recreational purposes, we feel the responsibility to make our position clear, as we did several times in the past, more so when such a proposal is labelled as a harm-reduction strategy. If the legalisation of cannabis will see new individuals starting cannabis use then definitely this cannot be labelled as a harm reduction strategy.

We do not agree with the legalization of cannabis for the following reasons:

  • We do feel that legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes is giving out a very unhealthy and contradicting message, especially when combined with harm reduction purposes. We believe that the state has the responsibility to give clear messages to the general public and to our young and future generations. Studies show that cannabis use, especially long term but also dependent on the age of onset, has counterproductive effects on the memory, concentration and sensorimotor activities. Often time users are not willing to look into effects of the drug that go beyond the euphoria experienced during the period of intoxication.
  • We need stronger policies which guide enforcement based on training and educating not only frontliners in the enforcement and health care sectors (as these are the ones who face the consequences on drug recreational use), but also the general public. We are particularly in need of training of educators working with children and adolescents, these people are uniquely placed to identify youngsters with at risk behaviours and channel them to appropriate services.
  • Parents need more professional support easily available in order to be more equipped to deal with the challenges of children’s upbringing as well as education about detecting early signs of behaviours associated with drug use. Families are invariably effected by a relatives’ drug use pattern and are oftentimes the ones asking for help before the user himself / herself.
  • The same applies to the effects on the industry and work place. Employers need support and guidance on how to deal with cases of intoxication, not only with reference to machinery use, but also to how drug use effects work relations and productivity.
  • Physical activity is a must for a better mental wellbeing. Open spaces need to be more available at all times. We are surrounded by the sea which could offer a myriad of options for relaxation and sports activity (not only during the warm season), where the promotion of wellbeing could be put in practice.
  • Drug users and family members need a means of knowing what kind of drug samples they are taking through anonymity protocols. Offering them testing facilities helps them and country know what kind of drugs are available.
  • We have been advocating for a Poison Unit in our Emergency Departments to monitor intoxication cases and levels in our hospital admissions. The country needs more data captured from more data sources such as EDs in hospitals. These sources could help the law and policy makers.
  • Drug driving policies and training need to be in place and enforced.
  • We do not believe the legalization recreational purposes will eliminate cannabis illegal supply.
  • Stronger preventive strategies need also be studied and acted upon.  The Icelandic Preventive Model (to mention one model), took 20 years to produce results and included, among other strategies, removing alcohol availability from homes and from the visibility of younger generations.

Prevention should also include training for care professionals (doctors, nurses, para-medics, social workers, youth workers, teachers and learn support assistants, police and other law enforcement, etc) in how to deal with emergency cases as well as apply policies and strategies in everyday life.

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The OASI Foundation of Gozo, the Naxxar Local Council and Villa Arrigo, organized a National Conference under the Patronage of President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.  The topic covered in today’s conference was – Women and Addiction – Is the World of Addiction a Sexist One?

The President in her message stated that stakeholders need to have more information so as to have a better picture of the realities being faced by Maltese society. “There also needs to be less obstacles for women to find the help they need,” she said.

A number of professionals spoke about their experiences. The primary speaker, Prof. Marilyn Clark, said that women face different difficulties in regards to experiences of addiction and treatment.

She also indicated the gender gap for drug use has practically vanished. “There are various difficulties which hinder women seeking to stop using drugs more than men in the same position – these include social attitudes towards women,” said Prof. Clark.

During the first panel, Dr. Jeffrey Bonnici, who works at the Emergency Department at Mater Dei Hospital, said that people who entered the Emergency Department with issues related to recreational drug use is continuously increasing, and there is no statistical difference in relation to the drugs used by men and women.

Inspector Joseph Busuttil commented that it is difficult to gather statistics about women and addiction, as they fear that by reporting drug use they will criminalise themselves. “The only sector where a person can have an idea of the actual reality is through prostitution,” he said.

In the second panel, Dr Anna Maria Vella discussed how crucial it is to have something for women by women. She also mentioned that at times, women see prostitution as the only means to get money for drugs, even though they still end up without money.

Dr Alosia Camilleri, a psychiatrist explained that the amount of mental health problems between men and women is rather similar. The difference is what kind of mental illness they have.

She also mentioned that women face more barriers in facing treatment and getting out of this vicious cycle.

Dr Mariella Mangion talked about the problems babies face, whose mothers used drugs, and also the long term effects.

Mr Noel Xerri, Chief Executive of the OASI Foundation, emphasised how essential it is to note that there is still a lot of abuse and a lot of work needs to be done in order to achieve a better situation.

Finally Naxxar mayor Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adam ended the conference, saying that the Naxxar local council understands the importance of social help and the NGOs, saying that it is also willing to help other non-governmental organisations. The conference was presented by Amanda Ciappara.


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On Sunday 24th June 2018, to commemorate the OASI Foundation’s 27th anniversary from its official opening in 1991, on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse, a Thanksgiving Function was held at the OASI Centre.

In a speech on behalf of the Board of Directors, Mr. Joseph Borg stated that Fr. Emmanuel Cordina has passed the baton to Mr. Noel Xerri, who is now the Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation. Fr. Cordina will continue to be the Chairperson of the Board of Directors. Mr. Borg thanked Fr. Cordina for dedicating his life to the benefit of others. He expressed the trust the Board of Directors has in Mr. Xerri, who will be taking the Foundation forward into a world where problems relating to addiction are becoming more frequent and complex. Mr. Borg stated that talks of recreational use of drugs is muddling the minds of youths and they are feeling disoriented, leaving them more prone to addiction, as expressed by experts in the field during a National Conference held last year. Next Tuesday, OASI will be participating in another National Conference, alongside Sedqa and Caritas, to be held in Parliament, and will be asserting its positions on this National stage, as is our duty. Mr. Borg expects the leaders of the country to take note of this message and act accordingly. He also thanked OASI staff and volunteers for their dedication to the Foundation, the Ministry for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity and the Ministry for Gozo for their continuous help, and past and present members of the Board of Directors for their support. Mr. John Magro, another member of the Board of Directors, presented OASI Awards to Lucy Stevenson, Jofy Mainzer and Margaret McMullan for their dedication and hard work throughout the years.

Present were Hon. Dr. Justyne Caruana, Minister for Gozo and Hon. Dr. Chris Said, Opposition spokesperson for Gozo Affairs, who gave short speeches, agreeing that OASI is a Gozitan Foundation providing a national service, expressed their concern regarding the current mentality and drug availability, and showed solidarity with the Foundation’s work and position.

Afterwards a reception was held at the OASI Centre.

Leading up to this event, the OASI Foundation also worked in collaboration with the Ministry for Gozo to organize activities to raise awareness about drug use. These included information sessions and outreach to increase people's awareness of the social realities in Malta and Gozo, as well as the dissemination of informative material.  Ministry staff and persons with a disability attending the Santa Marta Centre decorated the Xewkija roundabout with a message against drug abuse.