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.