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Caritas Malta, the OASI Foundation, SEDQA and the Maltese Association of Psychiatry, work with people with drug dependence and their families on a daily basis.

The need was felt that these entities come together due to the fact that through their work they are seeing changes in drug culture and a substantial increase in the number of people using certain types of substances for recreational purposes. The impact of this is leaving many aches and pains not only on individuals but also on their immediate families and society at large.

Mr Noel Xerri, CEO of the OASI Foundation, spoke of the need for the entities to come together as they are concerned about the increase in the use of substances they are encountering in their work in the field of drug abuse rehabilitation. Through bringing these entities together and collaborating, their message gains more weight. "The increase we are seeing in the number of persons using substances and the mentality that this is no big deal gives us great concern, and by working together we can put out a clear message that a healthy life can be lived and appreciated without dependence on substances."

The SEDQA Director, Mr Charles Scerri, explained that it is in the interest of each organization to positively promote sound alternatives, also known as natural highs. "We see a lot of children in our prevention programmes, with whom we work on topics such as self-esteem and peer pressure, so that when they need to make important decisions, even relating to substances, they are in a position to make them in an informed way. On the other hand, in a context where cannabis is legalized for recreational use, there can be realities where parents can indirectly influence their children about substance use as a means of recreation. This is because parents greatly impact the decisions their children take. On a similar scale, one can refer to statistics which show that the use of alcohol among youths mostly happens at home, and our concern is that the use of recreational cannabis may follow the same pattern. "

Dr Aloisa Camilleri, a Psychiatrist from the Maltese Association of Psychiatry, spoke of ongoing work with people with serious dependency problems. "These people are voiceless, and we feel the need to be their voice and that of their mental health. Recreational drugs deter people from having good mental health, and together we will work so that the voices of these people in pain get heard to prevent further harm and abuse. " She added: "There is a need for greater investment in suitable services for people who have dependency together with a mental health problem."

Mr Anthony Gatt, director of Caritas Malta, explained how the entities work hand-in-hand on a daily basis, not so that people do not find drugs because they are controlled, but so that they do not feel the need for it. "We are concerned about how the trend is changing and the idea that a substance such as cannabis is not harmful. While there is a strong investment by the authorities in agencies that work directly with dependency, lately even in prevention, we have to be cautious that through legalization we are not taking a step against all the good work being done. There is a danger that legalization will continue to increase the view that cannabis is not harmful. The idea that legalization will destroy the black market is erroneous, and this can be confirmed because the black market remained strong in countries where this law was adopted. We must also remember that we as a society tend to be less disciplined when compared to a country such as Canada.  We empathize with the social user that is not dependent on the substance and does not want to continue to rely on the black market, but if you weigh all these aspects against each other there are more disadvantages than advantages. The 2015 Law is delivering good results , and we wish that the legislature would give more tools to the judiciary so that their hands are not tied, such as in cases where a person who is dependent is caught with a certain amount of drugs and they are constricted to having to impose a prison sentence. Prison is not the right place for persons with dependence.”

The entities will be organizing a National Conference under the patronage of the President of Malta, His Excellence Dr. George Vella, with the title I Live – A Healthy Life is Our Choice, on  March 24th at the Palace of the President of Malta Sant' Anton. Details of speakers are in the attached poster. It is important that those wishing to attend register on the email [email protected], due to space limitations.

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